NEW YORK, United States — Ada Kokosar doesn’t believe in the sneaker hype, or at least not for her new label Midnight 00.
At a time when big luxury houses are capitalising on the growing $22 billion global luxury shoe market by creating a stream of new sneaker models, in an attempt to feed streetwear-hungry Millennial and Gen Z consumers, the Milan-born, New York-based stylist, creative consultant and street style star is going the opposite route.
Launched as part of a collaboration with Italian luxury shoe brand Cesare Paciotti in June 2017, Midnight 00 quickly gained popularity on Instagram for its uncommon, PVC-wrapped duchesse satin and bright-hued, crystal-embellished “Cinderella” heels, pumps and mules, inspired by child-like fairytales and the opulence found in the era of Marie Antoinette.
While the use of plastic as a core material has appeared on runways since September 2017 — Karl Lagerfeld even dedicated his entire Spring/Summer 2018 collection for Chanel to the cheap fabric — it has been part of Kokosar’s design aesthetic since the launch of her label.
“We spoke to reviewers from American Vogue and we saw that some brands were doing the same,” says Kokosar, offering as an example Virgil Abloh’s Off-White collaboration with Jimmy Choo for his Princess Diana-inspired Spring/Summer 2018 collection, which featured plastic-encased heels and boots.
“We realised the vision for Midnight was strong enough [to continue],” continues Kokosar, explaining that in addition to its attention-grabbing appeal, the use of plastic also has a functional purpose as it prevents the expensive materials of the shoes from getting ruined. “It’s waterproof, dirt-proof and, what I like to say, party-proof. It’s like a piece of art that you want to protect with a frame.”
Kokosar, who today is 60 percent owner of the brand, was put on the radar when Cesare Paciotti’s chief executive Marco Calcinaro – currently Kokosar’s business partner – contacted her in 2017 after seeing a customised shoe she had created for street-luxe label Public School.
Kokosar had long been an admirer of Paciotti’s controversial campaigns and designs in the 1980s and 1990s and made him the subject of her thesis during her time as a fashion design student in Italy. A formal education in footwear design, however, never followed.
After a successful career as a creative consultant in her home country, Kokosar moved to New York in 2011, where she styled and consulted for a range of established and emerging brands including Diane von Fürstenberg, Other Stories and Tome.
When Calcinaro approached the stylist to “revamp the Paciotti brand” in 2017, Kokosar jumped at the opportunity. “I decided that the only thing I could do was design something new that wasn’t in the market,” says Kokosar. “Not having experience in shoes was an important point, because I had no prejudice or boundaries when it comes to design, so there was nothing that stopped my creativity.”
Kokosar approaches the marketing of Midnight 00 in the same way. Traditional magazine advertising and celebrity endorsement and gifting have made way for social media marketing where the consumers can interact with the brand directly. The label's social media pages are treated more like a moodboard where engaged followers can explore the brand’s vision, explains Kokosar. Earlier this year, Calcinaro deemed the collaborative shoe line worthy of a standalone brand.
MatchesFashion picked up Midnight 00’s first standalone collection for the Autumn/Winter 2018 season, including its signature polka-dotted, ruffled “Shell” pumps in tulle-covered leather ($1,150), crystal-embellished, ruched PVC-wrapped mules ($1,800) and kitten heels ($1,950). For the Spring/Summer 2019 season, 14 other stockists, including Browns, Galeries Lafayette and I.T. Hong Kong have followed suit.
This month, Kokosar has created a custom BoF logo that takes the form of a crystal and pearl buckle, a new embellishment that the designer has added for the brand's Spring/Summer 2019 season. "It perfectly embodies my vision for Midnight 00," says Kokosar. "It's a reminder that the shoes come into their own at midnight and that dreams and desires are the collection's driving force."
Looking forward, Kokosar plans on expanding the range while making the brand’s price points more accessible and inclusive for younger consumers (styles will start at $650). But beyond fashion, Kokosar is also looking to expand the Midnight 00 universe to other disciplines like furniture and product design.
“Midnight should be a platform for expressing creativity, so it’s about broadening the vision,” she says.