Shoe designer Kobi Levi was working in his design studio in 2011 when he got an email that he was sure couldn’t be real.
It was from a studio executive working on Lady Gaga’s newest video — a raunchy, otherworldly clip to accompany her pop anthem “Born This Way.” The studio wanted to order several pairs of Levi’s custom-made “double” boots for the singer to wear in the video, a request that Levi — once he determined that the email was indeed real and not a practical joke from his friends — was happy to oblige.
But there was one problem: Levi had no idea how much to charge for the shoes. That’s because, despite spending the past 14 years furiously designing and executing fantastical footwear in a side room of his snug apartment here, he had never sold a single pair.
Levi, 40, has now sold plenty of pairs of his outlandish high heels. And though he won’t disclose sales figures and still teaches design classes to augment his income, he says it’s enough to make a living.