The world would sink into uniformity and irrelevance were it not for the free thinkers, artists and other defenders of difference who ensure that it’s more colourful, varied and free of prejudices. Vienna-based shoe label Rani Bageria is one of those special companies that produce shoes with a special look for special people. The eponymous designer is a graduate of the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and produces exceptional creations for ‘contemporary people’. Up to now, her designs, manufactured from high-quality leather in Italian workshops, have been focused on female feet. But male fans of the label can now also look forward to her unisex models. Why? We caught up with Rani Bageria to find out.
    Rani Bageria, ©Christiano Tekirdali

    What gave you the idea of creating genderless designs?
    Since many people had indicated to me that they thought genderless designs were great and they would be interested in them, I decided to design my first pieces. For me, my work is an opportunity to make my aesthetic perspectives visible, but at the same time I also see it as a service. It only makes sense if people want to own the shoes in their real lives and if it means something to them. I am definitely interested in the power of hermaphroditism; it is about inclusion.

    Who provided the inspiration?
    I’m inspired by people for whom a conventional duality of feminine/masculine was passé a long time ago: outspoken free thinkers, dandies, Prince, pop musician Thomas Azier and artist Sophie Thun.

    Unisex models are already common in sportswear – for example, in sneakers. What makes your designs special? 
    I can’t completely attest to that: in the case of sneakers, I often like the men’s designs. The women’s versions are often actually pink – that really surprises me. Rani Bageria boots are made of leather, with heels and a comfortable platform heel. They are as extravagant as tigers in the night.

    Are the three genderless designs you are developing the same as your usual women’s designs?
    There are several boot variations – simple black; studded, also in brown; snakeskin print ‒ and two types of slip-on mules.

    Fashion provides a visual vanguard to make the new demands of the coming zeitgeist visible. We need to treat ourselves and each other with dignity ‒ and be proud of ourselves.

    Did you have to take certain features into account that are also important for male wearers?
    The so-called Raniboots have had an androgynous character since the very beginning. Thanks to the slight plateau, they are not high; the footbed is wide, and the large side surfaces make the leather flexible. So I didn’t see any reason to change anything – I simply tried it out.

    It’s already an important theme in the fashion world, but in many areas of society it is taboo. How ready is our society for the subject of genderlessness or gender neutrality?
    For me, it is less about neutrality and rather about celebrating the diversity and amazing variety of human existence. I know what it feels like to be part of a minority, and how wonderful it is when you find something that really fits you well – fits the shape and colour of your body, your interests and your wishes. It is not so easy to grow into your own greatness. We often hear that it is much easier to make yourself small and to hide. Fashion provides a visual vanguard to make the new demands of the coming zeitgeist visible. We need to treat ourselves and each other with dignity ‒ and be proud of ourselves. We all make up society; we are role models for each other, and we enrich each other when we acknowledge and appreciate the incredible variety of our lives with loving self-acceptance.  

    Rani Bageria – where is the journey headed in the near future?
    The future will take us to a new place, where we can see and try out everything for ourselves.

    Wonderful closing words. Thank you very much for this candid conversation. 

    Interview: Deniz Trosdorff

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