Tal Maslavi on Those Viral Cake Shoes and His ASMR Graduate Collection

Tal Maslavi on Those Viral Cake Shoes and His ASMR Graduate Collection

Earlier this summer, Israeli fashion student Tal Maslavi had his first experience with going viral when photos of his cake derby shoes made the rounds on Instagram.

The surreal leather shoes appeared to have missing chunks on the toe section that exposed cuts of layered strawberry, chocolate or vanilla cake. They recalled a similar TikTok trend that showed cakes disguised as various everyday fast food items.

"I've been obsessed with these videos showing objects being cut and revealed as cakes long before Netflix's Is It Cake? came out," Maslavi tells PAPER. "I wanted to challenge this trend by creating something even more surreal that can also be wearable."

The shoes were first teased as part of Maslavi's avant-garde menswear graduate collection from Israel's Shenkar College, which explored other surreal elements and leaned into an ASMR sensibility complete with tactile silicone tops, shirts made out of chocolate and a "hug me" jacket that creates a "comforting sensation" for the person hugging the wearer of the jacket.

The designer jut released his first campaign for his graduate collection, literally titled "Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response." Below, Maslavi details his design process, his ASMR fascination and fashion ambitions post-school.

How did you first get into fashion and how did you know that's what you wanted to pursue?

I grew up and still live in Hod Hasharon, a city in the center of Israel not far from Tel Aviv. As a child and as a teenager art was my main passion. It was always the most important class for me from elementary school up until high school.

Throughout my teenage years I always thought I’d be an artist, but when I was a soldier, I started watching fashion shows. One of the shows that had the most impact on me and left a mark was THE KING IS NAKED by Comme des Garçons Homme Plus Spring 17. I immediately fell in love and felt a new connection to fashion.

At the age of 20 I decided to create my first collection "David" inspired by the story of David and Goliath. After this first experience of designing my own collection, I have realized that I want to study fashion design. So at the age of 22 I started studying fashion design at Shankar College.

Does being based in Israel inform your approach and perspective toward fashion design?

I feel more like I'm a citizen of the world. I think Israel is heavily influenced and inspired by what's happening in the world and I get inspired the same way. I prefer to get inspired by global movements and cultures. I think there is fashion in Israel and there are many young brands emerging from Israel. There are many talented people I've had the pleasure of working with: photographers, stylists, fashion writers. It's noticeable that there is a new and young voice growing in Israel.

How was you describe your design aesthetic?

I think my aesthetic is eclectic, surreal and cynical. I try to combine different materials to try and create connections that are unusual. The actual work with the materials intrigues me and it has a huge impact on my designs, starting from the idea that they are not conventional or acceptable materials for clothes.

In my aesthetics I am trying to integrate images in order to create something new. Recently my design process started from an “industrial design” point of view. And sometimes, the aesthetic is actually created from the function/material of the garment.

Before we get to your graduate collection, tell us more about the signature pieces you've been designing so far, like the full body army knife. How did that come about?

In my third year of studies I participated in a course called "Extra-ordinary" directed by Idit Barak and Gilad Yona. The subject of the course was to take an outstanding phenomenon as inspiration and translate it into an avant-garde and conceptual outfit and at the same time produce a ready-to-wear outfit based on the same inspiration.

I decided that my inspiration will be how we present ourselves on social media. In my perspective, we are always on a global social media trip and this is what led me to think about the tools that we need to survive online. Just like a hiker needs tools to survive in nature, a “hiker” on the internet needs a tool like a pocket knife that has functions to be used on the internet.

I wanted to produce a survival tool with functions that would fit in the age of social media. I called it "Only Me." This item is made jointly with professionals in the field of jewelry and metals. I had a real challenge to produce this item but I enjoyed every second of it. The knives of the army knife were created in the shapes of eyebrows and eyelashes and a round selfie lamp was attached to the back of the piece.

Other creations you're proud of?

Another item I created that same year was part of a course on the connection of interaction and technology taught at the Michal and Avraham Kader Center for Design and Technology. In this course I created the tank top that I called "Only Yours". Working on this piece, I thought a lot about the way people create intimacy on social media, especially on platforms meant for body exposure, sex and nudity like Only Fans. I asked myself if people would want to buy “nudes” from each other in a real life face-to-face manner, without the privilege of a phone keeping it anonymous.

After this course, I realized how interaction design can be so influential in fashion as well. The knowledge from this course had impacted my graduation collection greatly.

You teased your graduate collection with the cake derby shoes that quickly went viral. What was behind that concept in particular?

For the past two years I've been obsessed with videos of objects being cut and revealed as cakes long before Netflix's Is It Cake? came out. Over time I saw how the trend spread everywhere, and the cakes became more and more realistic.

I wanted to research what makes the cakes so trendy and in my opinion it's because the people relate to the feeling that nothing feels real. So the layers of the cake became a symbol of the sense that nothing is real. When I started to work on this piece I wanted to challenge this trend by creating something even more surreal that can also be wearable.

I'm excited to say I'm currently working on the production of my “cake shoes'' and expecting a prototype very soon.

Your graduate collection is ASMR-themed. Why did you take that approach?

ASMR is a huge and crazy phenomenon. It caught my attention because it's everywhere and shows no signs of going away. It fascinates me to think that it really helps people relax. The videos are not exactly calming — people eating colorful candies in front of a camera or a machine that crushes toys. I think ASMR is a sensory compensation in a world that is becoming more “flat” and digital. It fulfills the human desire we have to touch, listen and feel.

Tell us more about the materials you used.

I used many materials from different unexpected places to achieve material complexity in the collection. I used more “traditional” textile materials such as jeans and leather alongside unconventional materials like silicone, chocolate and acrylic nails.

The opening look of the collection was made out of stickers. I took my friends' actual clothes, photographed them and printed them on human size stickers. The sticker was strategically covering the front of the model's body.

Another challenge I took upon myself in this collection was the closing look: a tank top made of chocolate. My mentor Idit Barak and I talked a lot about how I could try to use a typically unused sense in the fashion industry — the sense of taste, so I thought of a garment that could be edible.

The inspiration for that design started by observing the infamous “gym mirror selfie." The thing that really stood out was that guys in the pictures all lifted their clothes to their mouths to show off their muscular bodies. This phenomenon seemed so strange to me, it looks like they are literally eating their tank tops. I sculpted edible white chocolate in the shape of a tank top held in the model's mouth. After building the mold in that shape, I poured white chocolate into it. Luckily I have an aunt specializing in baking and dessert making. She helped me understand and create the type of chocolate I needed.

Another look in the collection is called "hug me." It's a leather jacket inspired by the traditional biker jacket. I thought a lot about the senses and feelings activated by hugs and how to create a “mechanical hug.” Hugging the person wearing the jacket activates massage machines that are located inside the jacket's back. I wanted to create a situation that is self-interested to an extent: a hug for a massage.

What are your plans now that you've finished school?

I'm currently looking for a job in design. It would be a dream to be able to work in a big fashion house abroad. I'm eager to learn, study and understand the fashion industry. Simultaneously, I’m thinking about my next project/collection and manufacturing a few of my existing items.

Photography: Asaf Einy