Thom Solo ended up in shoe design purely by chance. As a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston he would often construct couture-like creations based on ideas that randomly popped into his head. “I’ve always had a true love of fashion and fine art, and that’s what’s really developed my aesthetic and everything I’ve done,” says the 24-year-old Bostonian, who graduated in 2012 with a dual degree from Tufts and SMFA. Back then he thought of his surreal stilettos only as sculptures, but when his stylist friends started to pull them for projects, he realized shoemaking might be something worth pursuing, and his towering heels were soon gracing the pages of German Vogue and Blend and the feet of Carly Rae Jepsen and Daphne Guinness.
Solo’s floral-driven first collection, Specimen, attracted further celebrity and editorial attention, but his big break came with the launch of his Fall ’13 follow up, Giger. Inspired by Swiss artist H.R. Giger (the man behind the “xenomorph” creature in Ridley Scott’s Alien films) and female superheroes, the shoes’ ribcage platforms and spinal cord heels were snapped up for Britney Spears’ “Work Bitch” video. “I’ve had a few years of notoriety and now I’m financially able to bring my shoes to the masses,” he says, noting that his next collection, dubbed Conte des Fees, will put a dark twist on fairytales. “I always feel that everything should have a sense of dark edge but also a large amount of beauty. Dark and light should always combine,” he adds.
And while Solo is hoping this line will land in the likes of Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys (Heel heights will be kept to a “wearable” five inches as opposed to his usual eight.) he’s far from finished with custom work. “My favorite pop divas have always been the embodiment of Thom Solo. I just did custom shoes for Lady Gaga’s ArtRave tour, and to watch her breathing life into my work, to see something on stage that I’d constructed with my own hands. that was just so amazing,” he gushes.
Q: What is your first shoe memory? A: I was about 2 or 3 and I was in Italy with my mom and, for whatever reason, I just had to have a pair of clear jelly sandals. So my mom put me on her back and we walked around all day in the baking sun and right at the end of the day, just before it closed, we found them in a little shop. It’s something that’s always stuck with me.
Q: Who is your style icon? A: Daphne Guinness because she fully understands and grasps that sense of the world between fantasy and reality, and she’s also really cemented in society that fashion is not only an expression of who you are but that it can also be a form of armor.
Q: Which celebrities would you love to see in one of your designs? A: I’m dying to have Beyone wear my shoes.
Q: Where do you like to shop? A: I do a lot of my shopping online. I love ssence.com, luisaviaroma.com and alexanderwang.com.
Q: Which shoes in your closet are getting the most wear? A: I’m about to retire them but I have these amazing Dior Homme boots from the Hedi Slimane era that my mom bought me when I was 17. They are so beat up and covered in paint drips now, and my fiane makes fun of me because on the bottom of the sole where it used to say Dior Homme it now says Sullivan Tire because I had to get the soles replaced.
Q: Which trends do you hope to never see again? A: Crocs. I want to burn them all.
Q: Which designer do you admire most? Alexander McQueen because he really knew how to bring fantasy to life and he will never be matched, ever.