There was a time when flip-flops were called thongs, a time before Crocs, Leboutins, Sneakerheads, and even metallic Birkenstocks …
“When I was around six years old, or maybe younger, I used to have really big dolls, so big that I could wear their clothes. My grandmother would help me sew clothes for them; that’s how my interest in fashion started.” Although dolls were put on a presumably large shelf when Bell Quintao left her native Brazil to take fashion classes in London and finally found her footing at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. The Footwear and Accessories program at their School of Fashion kicked off in 2018, and Quintao is one of the first students to graduate with that degree—and then go on to be selected as a winner in 2021’s Gucci X Artsthread Global Design Graduate show. Very much the proverbial pivot for someone who arrives in a new country, determined to learn entirely new skills.
“My background is in marketing, and sketching footwear can be tough,” Footwear and Accessories Coordinator Damion Chappelain describes the goal as fusion of utility and design, of weighing the properties of those cousins, Form and Function. In her case, sketching was just part of Quintao’s challenge. The educational, and very inspirational, advantage of attending a school made up of so many departments has enabled her to learn new methods and crafts, as she recalls, “I could navigate between areas. I was able to make my own heels and handles with the Industrial Design department. I was stoked to see them teaching me so many skills.” The ability, personally, to 3D-print her visions has resulted in the very colorful double-mushroom fantasies she loves to drape and design. Whimsical and mysterious, the fungi shape offers infinite possibilities, while the properties of leather replicate the durability and aesthetics of animal-based hides. Maybe mushrooms really are symbols of good luck and prosperity because Bell Quintao seems to have succeeded: “It was very important that my instructor encouraged me to experiment with the complex designs I had in mind. He really pushed me, and we chatted about different techniques and possibilities. Having someone from the industry with so much experience was incredible. And the music at the footwear studio was always very exciting. Having a fun environment makes a huge difference, and I miss that.” —Gwynned Vitello
Learn more about the Academy of Art University’s Fashion school at academyart.edu