Thanks to artist CJ Hendry, our shoe dreams are real.
There's a part in The Devil Wears Prada where Andy Sachs sells her tainted designer wardrobe, using it to fund her new life as an idealistic newspaper rookie. Five years ago, Australian artist CJ Hendry did the same thing, unloading every investment piece in her closet onto eBay. "I was studying finance, and hopeless at it. But I didn't believe that being creative was an actual job, so I got a job on the sales floor at Chanel in my hometown—Brisbane, Australia," says Hendry. "I did it for a while and then I said, 'Right, I've got to do this. I've got to be an artist.' So I sold everything I owned on eBay—bags, shoes, jackets, everything— and I made about $36,000. I took that money, moved back in with my parents, and gave myself a year to succeed." Spoiler alert: she did.
Today, Hendry's client list includes Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, and her huge, hyper-detailed illustrations of designer bags and shoes sell mere minutes after hitting her website. ("Instagram changed the art game," she admits. "Galleries are great, but I sell directly through my feed.") Her fourth major show opened this week at the Fringe Club in Hong Kong, and for the first time in Hendry's career, a brand—Christian Louboutin—sponsored it.
"I've drawn their shoes in the past, so they found me on Instagram—like everyone does. They were like, 'Oh, we love artists. We'll give you a wall in the store!' And I was like, 'Thanks for the opportunity, but if you're going to be using my art, this is the scale it's going to be at, and this is how it's going to happen,'" Hendry explains. "I channeled my inner Beyoncé because I knew I had to be a bad bitch about making sure my art gets seen the way it needs to be seen. And I was lucky, because they'd come to my art show in New York, and they knew, when it comes to art, I don't play." As Hendry says all this, her poodle puppy, Ace, curls up at her feet and gnaws at her socks. She smiles down at him, then grabs a bronzed Louboutin stiletto from her desk.
"I took their shoe and made a mold," she explains of her process, "and from the mold, I'm making true-to-size Louboutin crayons. It'll be a Louboutin heel made entirely of wax. And I want everyone to come into the party, take a shoe crayon, and just be a little kid—draw all over the floor, and the walls! It's not the kind of art you need a thesis to understand, you know? It's immediately fun, and funny. We need more of that."
The shoes won't be for sale, but 40 new drawings—all of eerily realistic paint blobs (a joke, Hendry says, "because I can't paint for shit!") just hit her website on a first-click, first-serve basis. "I wanted to do it like a sneaker drop, or what, like, Supreme does," Hendry explains. Will they promptly sell out a lá the streetwear brand? At publish, all were gone in just about four minutes.
(Don't panic: Hendry assures us, and her collectors, that there will be more. "I'm always obsessed with something. And when I like a label's vibe, like Celine's really strict lines or Chanel's tweed, drawing gets it out of my system. I guess the art is just a new way to obsess about fashion.")
Because she won't accept gifts from brands ("I don't want anyone else to own my vision, or expect me to post something online for them"), Hendry estimates she's spent more than $200,000 on the designer loot she routinely destroys as part of her work. "I'm one of the only women in the world who can legitimately claim Birkins as a business expense," she jokes. But Hendry's work is commanding a reported $50,000 to $80,000 per piece, and in her luxe-loaded world, shopping for Hermes isn't a special occasion—it's just another run for more art supplies.