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Viral chic

One designer’s COVID-19 accessories find irony in symbols of pandemic

Kobi Levi, known for his chewing gum booties and banana peel stilettos, finds his inspiration in the hallmarks of coronavirus

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Kobi Levi's Face It handbag, inspired by the blue disposable masks worn by many during COVID-19 (Courtesy Kobi Levi)
Kobi Levi's Face It handbag, inspired by the blue disposable masks worn by many during COVID-19 (Courtesy Kobi Levi)

When Israel went into lockdown last spring, shoe designer Kobi Levi couldn’t help but feel inspired.

Known for his outlandish, quirky creations — from banana peel shoes and chewing gum booties (worn by singer Fergie) to flamingo stilettos and optical illusion boots (worn by Lady Gaga) — Levo created the Lock Down Handbag, an $800 square leather purse that closely resembles an oversized combination lock.

“We were in lockdown all the time, everything was closed, it was horrible,” said Levi. “But for me, the lockdown was like a door opening to inspiration.”

Designer Kobi Levi’s Lock Down Handbag, inspired by the continuing lockdowns due to COVID-19 (Courtesy Kobi Levi)

A slightly less expensive COVID-19 inspired handbag is Levi’s “Face It Handbag,” a blue-and-white pleated leather confection for $265 that resembles the disposable masks worn by nearly everyone these days.

“Everyone has masks on now when you’re out on the street,” said Levi. “Some people hold the masks on their arms [while not wearing then] and when they hold it like that, I said, ‘Wait a minute… it looks like a tiny little bag.'”

Shoe and handbag designer Kobi Levi who finds inspiration in nearly anything, including disposable masks and lockdowns (Courtesy Kobi Levi)

Levi, a graduate and now faculty member in the jewelry and fashion department of Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, said he himself is still in denial about masks being considered a new accessory, and continues using the disposable ones because he’s hoping they won’t be needed for much longer.

The handbags are both available on Levi’s website and are proving popular with customers, particularly the Face It version, which is less expensive and not immediately obvious as a mask replica.

Some form of COVID-19 shoe could also be in the works, said Levi, but as always, he waits for inspiration to strike, and then sketches with abandon.

For now, though, he won’t be too disappointed if the coronavirus only inspires two handbag designs. Ultimately, his bags — and shoes — are carefully crafted pieces meant to delight and amuse.

“I hope the bags will just be for the memories,” said Levi. “We have to take this whole thing in proportion. It’s annoying and affects us but we have to laugh at it and deal with it.”

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