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Last week, Del Toro founder and creative director Matthew Chevallard presented four Pantone samples, all variations on fire engine red, to artist Devin Troy Strother. He was deciding what color to paint the grand staircase leading from the street into his new shoe and clothing pop-up shop at 170 Mercer Street. A former Japanese restaurant, the space features exposed brick walls and large windows now filled with shoe displays that overlook the busy Soho shopping street.
Strother, reclining on a couch in the back of the nearly complete shop, took a cursory look and quickly pointed to his favorite. Clearly, it was not this man's first time at the rodeo.
He shrugged. "I've done a few of these now," he said.
Strother's vibrant, playful aesthetic lends itself to collaborations with hip young brands. This past summer, he partnered with LA-based shoe brand Undefeated, and he's even crafted inflatable pool toys. For the new shop, Strother and Chevallard (he of the Space Jam-themed gallery exhibit in Chelsea earlier this year) created sneakers and sandals that combine the former's design and the latter's master craftsmanship —Chevellard describes his shoemakers as "five little Italian dudes in a small shop in Italy."
The shoes feature x-ed out eyes and lips interspersed with images of bananas. Strother describes the bananas as a "trope" with multiple meanings. He calls them "phallic-y" and notes the reference to Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. Also at play are the more sinister racial implications ("blacks used to be called monkeys, bananas are the fruits of monkeys," he says) and the fact that Strother's studio assistant frequently eats the fruit and leaves peels around the studio.
In addition to the shoes, Chevallard's pop-up is offering jackets, pants, jewelry, tops, and more. The women's section is up the stairs and to the left, while men's clothing is on the right. In the back is a bespoke shoe bar for those who want to customize their own footwear. Strother's artwork, also for sale, adorns the shop.
The pop-up shop, open at least until February, presents a new challenge for Chevallard, whose brand is based in Miami. When asked how the New York crowd differs from the crowd back home, he mentions the "affluence" and "refinement" here. Additionally, he says, "there are so many damn people." Hopefully more than a few of them will walk up his bright red steps and discover something new and fun on the cutting edge of art, fashion, and design in the city.