Those Godzilla claw shoes on the Oscars red carpet are just one of Hazama’s ‘dark fantasy’ creations

URAWA, Japan (AP) — One Japanese creation grabbing attention on the Oscars red carpet wasn’t a movie: the kitsch shoes that seemed to be clenched in Godzilla’s claw.

They were the work of Ryosuke Matsui, who recently described his joy at seeing “Godzilla Minus One” director Takashi Yamazaki and his Shirogumi special-effects team walk the red carpet and win the visual effects Oscar, all while wearing his shoes.

“The director loves my shoes. He calls them his uniform,” Matsui told The Associated Press in an interview.

At 35 with a fashion career that’s barely a decade old, Matsui heads his own brand called Hazama, which means “the space-in-between” in Japanese.

A small business with just six employees, Hazama offers girlie outfits with fluffy skirts, as well as Gothic themes, kimono and sweaters in gradient colors, jackets with repetitive motifs evocative of Andy Warhol, sofas and coffee tables, and, of course, the shoes with the crazy heels.

One pair has a pistol trigger you can really pull though without any bullets, while another looks like it’s stuck in an alien’s blood-red teeth.

“Dark fantasy” is what Matsui calls his motifs. His imaginary world is filled with odd creatures like witches, scary penguins and iridescent polar bears, where objects suddenly melt, a face might get replaced by a giant rose, or a horrific hand grabs your heel from underground.

His brand’s spaces in-between are the filters through which Matsui sees and expresses his mesmerizing stories of the beginnings of time, inhabited by “the people” he’s concocted. He would love to have his own café or work on an animation project.

“Of course, cool people look great, no matter what they wear, but clothes can change the way you think, how you relate to people around you, work as that doorway into building your confidence,” he said.

Matsui’s no-nonsense friendly attitude defies his demure first impression. Sitting amid mounds of boxes and packages of clothing at his office on the outskirts of Tokyo, he was wearing a Hazama-designed hoodie with rainbow-tinged fangs of an “aurora shark” for studs, with torn Yves Saint Laurent jeans and Nike sneakers. He said he wasn’t wearing his Godzilla shoes because he was working.

The Godzilla shoes originated as a special order from the film’s producer for the Japan premiere in October last year. Their stealing the show at the recent Academy Awards ceremony wasn’t even in the script then.

It took Matsui about a year to finish the initial three designs, the 75,000 yen (about $500) red pumps for actress Minami Hamabe, the 88,000 yen ($600) shoes for Yamazaki, and boots decorated with jagged scales, priced at 105,500 yen ($700), for Ryunosuke Kamiki, the movie’s co-star alongside Godzilla.

The entire first batch of several hundred already sold out. Plans are underway to produce more, perhaps in different colors, like gold in homage of the Oscar statue.

Interest has been huge, according to Matsui. But, in theory, everyone who’s got their hearts set on a Godzilla shoe should be able to get one, eventually.

Growing up in a loving family that sent him to piano and swimming lessons and “juku” cram schools, Matsui is a graduate of the prestigious Keio University and could have easily become a successful “salaryman” like other young Japanese men.

But he didn’t want to part with his then-blond hair.

Although he has always respected Yohji Yamamoto, he purposely pursued color and fabric texture, instead of Yamamoto’s focus on black and stark lines.

When asked about his global ambitions, Matsui acknowledged he is quite happy working in Japan. His dream is surprisingly local: to create the fashion for Bump of Chicken, a Japanese rock band.

Besides, he’s afraid of flying.

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Yuri Kageyama is on X: https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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