Design History Series N. 016

Beth Levine and American Footwear

In our Design History Series we highlight iconic women in design history and their innovative work. The historic contributions of women to design are many, and we aim to increase the awareness of these contributions in order to counteract a general trend of underrepresentation. In this issue we celebrate Beth Levine, the most influential and innovative American shoe designer of the twentieth century. 

Tiny Feet, Big Dreams

Beth Levine, dubbed “America’s First Lady of Shoe Design,” left an indelible mark on the world of footwear that continues to influence contemporary fashion. Born in Patchogue, New York, in 1914, Levine soon left Long Island for a shoe modeling career in New York City. She had incredibly tiny feet (US size 4, EU size 35) that were the sample size of the era, and developed a keen intuition for how shoes would fit. At the time, shoe designers were men, usually those descended from generations of cobblers. Levine realized that she understood just as much about what constituted a good shoe as these prominent designers, if not more, and was determined to design shoes herself.

Creating the Brand

In 1946, while applying to work at a shoe manufacturer, she met and married Herbert Levine, then a fashion executive. The two founded their shoe factory, Herbert Levine, Inc. in 1948 and Beth began making shoes under Herbert’s name. At the time, footwear had not yet been sold with a woman’s name on the product. The factory was known for its excellence, and talent was brought to New York from all over the world to ensure top quality. She was known for relishing the challenges of footwear, saying “Clothes designers have gravity on their side, but shoe designers work upside down. Ideas are easy to come by. Getting them realized is something else.”

The couple had a vision to create shoes that were not just functional but also captivating. Using strategic cutouts and careful material choices, Levine became known for shoes that made women’s feet appear smaller and were therefore perceived as more elegant. Levine is credited with repopularizing the mule silhouette with this approach. At the same time, she wanted her designs to be comfortable above all, and she wasn’t afraid to be playful and bold. Beth’s innovative designs and Herbert’s business sense propelled the brand to prominence, garnering attention from fashion icons like Barbra Streisand and America’s first ladies of the era; Lady Bird Johnson, Patricia Nixon, and Jacqueline Kennedy. 

Making History (Again and Again)

One of Beth’s most significant contributions to footwear design was her role in reintroducing boots to women’s fashion in the 1960s. Through her creative vision, boots transformed from utilitarian items into stylish fashion statements. Her stretchy stocking styles and vinyl Go-Go boots captured the spirit of the era and became iconic symbols of liberation and empowerment, epitomized by Nancy Sinatra’s hit song “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.” The song not only propelled the demand for fashion boots but also led to the establishment of “Beth’s Bootery”, a dedicated fashion boot department at Saks Fifth Avenue. 

Beth’s designs were characterized by their whimsical charm and innovative use of materials. On a dare she designed “topless” or “upper-less” heels, shoes with no upper that would be affixed to the foot with adhesive pads. She called another style “Barefoot in the Grass” and lined the insole with AstroTurf. For the wife of a driver in the 1967 Indianapolis 5000, she designed a shoe that resembles (adorably) a race car, which became so popular that variations on the design were released for years afterward. Her creations pushed the boundaries of conventional footwear. She experimented with unconventional materials (hello, AstroTurf) like vinyl, acrylic, and laminate, creating shoes that were not only visually striking but also ahead of their time. She also developed the now universally standard practice of putting an illustration of the shoe on the outside of the shoebox. 

An Enduring Legacy

Throughout her career, Beth Levine received numerous accolades for her groundbreaking designs, including the prestigious Coty Award in 1967. Her ability to marry creativity with functionality revolutionized the shoe industry and paved the way for future generations of designers. Despite the closure of the Herbert Levine brand in 1975, Beth’s legacy endures through her iconic designs, many of which are housed in international costume collections. To Levine, who passed away in 2006, the only mistake in design is to “play it safe”. Today, her innovative spirit continues to inspire designers and fashion enthusiasts alike, reminding us of the enduring impact of her contributions to the history of footwear design.

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Designs Created by AI

The Smart List is a monthly list of multi-media recommendations on everything design, curated by Interwoven Design. As a group of aesthetically obsessed designers, there are a lot of beautiful products, objects and events we love and enjoy. These recommendations make our daily lives special and inviting and we want to share them with you. This issue is a guide to Designs Created by AI!

The Smart List: Designs Created by AI

NASA’s new AI generated parts

NASA has submersed themselves in incorporating artificial intelligence, much like the kind we have all experimented with in creating images, text, and music based on human prompts. These one of a kind components, known as Evolved Structures, are now being integrated into space-bound equipment. This remarkable lineup includes astrophysics balloon observatories, Earth-atmosphere scanners, planetary instruments, and space telescopes. Designers, harnessing the power of CAD software such as Autodesk, nTopology, and Divergent3D, have been delving into the realm of generative capabilities for years. According to Ryan McClelland, a research engineer at NASA, these awe-inspiring structures, influenced by science fiction shows, have been meticulously generated using precise prompts. He further highlights that conventional manufacturing tools are typically not deemed capable of producing such unique parts. As McClelland aptly puts it, “Most people would simply find it hard to believe that these parts could be created through that process—until someone actually did it.”

via Fast Company

Sneakers designed with H.U.E. by DeepObjects and PUMA

Deep Objects began on a groundbreaking mission to develop an AI engine that relied heavily on human input. Operating covertly for nearly two years, the creative studio known as FTR has been at the forefront of this project. This “decentralized design studio” takes a million potential solutions and distills them into a singular outcome. Enter the Hueristic Unsupervised Entity (H.U.E.), an engine that has astoundingly showcased an array of sneaker variations. The creators elucidate that this tool serves as a means to explore, engage, and scrutinize technology in order to unleash creativity and advance the field of design. Deep Objects elaborates, stating, “Now, people and designers alike are actively and massively engaging with it, which holds immense power. At Deep Objects, our aim is to investigate how a more controlled and proactive relationship between designers, AI, and ‘consumers’ can yield extraordinary design objects.”


Paragraphica Text-to-Image Camera

Paragraphica, an innovative camera powered by artificial intelligence, has emerged as a remarkable creation. Devised by Bjørn Karmann, this lensless camera employs location data to provide users with real-time descriptions of their surroundings, which are then transformed into distinctive visual representations of the scenes. Equipped with buttons, the camera allows users to control the collection of surrounding data, including weather conditions and points of interest. These parameters grant users the ability to govern both the description and the resulting image. Karmann elaborates, stating, “Interestingly the photos do capture some reminiscent moods and emotions from the place but in an uncanny way, as the photos never really look exactly like where I am.”

via Designboom

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Design News N. 031

Design News Category Image

Design News N. 031

Design News is your tiny dose of design, technology and other important news, curated monthly by Interwoven Design. In this issue: we take a dive into commercialized bioplastic vinyl records, Pauline van Dongen and Tentech collaborate on solar-energy-generating textiles, Bali’s Sustainable Art Space, Patagonia’s disbursement of resources to save the environment and the On’s inspiring CleanCloud™ story. 

Evolution Music's Bioplastic Vinyl
Photo: Evolution Music, “Music Made Better”

Bioplastic 12-inch Vinyl by Evolution Music

Evolution Music’s bioplastic 12-inch vinyl may look and sound like a traditional record but is actually the world’s first bioplastic vinyl that is commercially available. ‘Evolution Music’ have spent over 4 years working on research and development to find the appropriate material to replace the harmful elements in Vinyl LP manufacturing. The decision to use plant based bio-polymers and organic master batch creates a non-toxic production process for the compound. In addition, the final product ‘Evo-Vinyl’ is completely biodegradable compostable according to DIN EN 13432 (European Standards). The team at Evolution also took great care to settle on a Bon Sucro certified supplier to ensure a completely sustainable approach.

via Dezeen Awards

Photo: Pauline van Dongen

Pauline van Dongen to “create a new aesthetic for buildings” with solar textile

Pauline van Dongen along with Tentech are reimagining and developing textiles that could be used to create a new exterior for future buildings. Suntex is a solar textile that is energy generating while also being durable and water-resistant. The Dutch designer explains the construction of the textile that includes weaving organic photovoltaic solar cells along with recycled polymer yarns.

via Dezeen Awards

Photo: Nathan Congleton

Earth is now Patagonia’s only Shareholder

The founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard originally got into producing climbing gear for his friends, not to be a businessman. The company began by donating 1% of their sales each year to altering the company’s purpose into saving the planet. Instead of selling Patagonia or making the company publicly owned,  the company decided to “go purpose” and gave the nonvoting stock to the Holdfast Collective, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis.

via Patagonia

 Photo: Tommaso Riva, MoSA, Museum of Space Available, in Bali

Bali’s new Circular Design Workplace

The Museum of Space Available (MoSA), was created when the pandemic struck and made the space available. Former creative director, Daniel Mitchell, envisioned this new system located in southern Bali. The coastal sustainable community features space available for artists, designers and bio innovation scientists that result in exhibitions including physical art installations as well as NFTs.

via Wallpaper


The CleanCloud from On

The CleanCloud™ story is one of trial and tribulation deserves a round of applause for the innovation team at On. It began by the team questioning if the problem of carbon emissions be a part of the solution to step away from using fossil-based materials. On and Technip Energies targeted the materials used and production of EVA midsole foam which is commonly used in the sole of shoes. Through a collaboration with Fairbrics, the midsole’s polyester is also made from carbon emissions and the outsole is the result of an innovative partnership with Novoloop, making materials from plastic waste.


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