Israeli fashionista's fantasy footwear finds famous fans

Israeli designer Kobi Levi's psychedelic shoes resemble everything from banana skins to sex acts, flamingos and stretching cats -- and they are all the rage among well-heeled stars like Lady Gaga.

Working from a modest studio at his apartment in Israel's commercial capital Tel Aviv, 41-year-old Levi uses a vintage sewing machine and an old leather press to turn his designs from fantasies into shoes.

One of his works is a stylish black-and-white sneaker with an 11-centimeter (four-inch) pink dripping heel is so realistic it could be mistaken for real gum, caught the imagination of actress Whoopi Goldberg, who wore them when she appeared with US President Barack Obama on talk show "The View" in 2012.

American singer Fergie wore a pair of the same shoes in the video for her song "M.I.L.F. $".

The bulk of Levi's orders come through his website but one, in 2011, changed the course of his career -- propelling his shoes onto the global pop scene.

"I got an email from a fashion design studio that deals with Lady Gaga. They wanted a pair of shoes for a video," he says. Gaga wore the shoes in the video for her 2011 hit single "Born This Way".

Levi's designs are made to measure in very limited batches -- as few as 20 pairs. They occupy, he says, the crossroads between "design, art and fashion."

It takes several months to create a new model, and several weeks to reproduce each one. Once he receives around 20 orders, he moves on to another project.

The effort has paid off, winning Levi high-profile fans.

Swedish stylist B. Akerlund, who designs for the likes of Beyonce and Kim Kardashian, has put 13 of the Israeli's designs in her showroom.

Vogue Italia described Levi as "a genius, unusual, true creative talent, the captor of surrounding reality, of unpredictable objects, of animal appearances".

"Everything starts with a fantasy, then it becomes a challenge," he says.

Levi stressed his creations -- which sell for between $800 and $3,000 -- are designed to be worn, not simply for display.

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