high heels called Mari K

Sergio Rossi joining the 2nd chapter of “High Heel Project” to create the pair of tailor-made high heel for “MARI K” based on SI ROSSI by Sergio Rossi.

About High Heel Project

“High heels are not special.
But I want them to be one of your free choices,
which are important yet also nothing special.”

The High Heel Project, which started in 2011, is a project in which artist Mari Katayama aims to create prosthetic legs that allow her to wear high heels, walk, and perform on stage.

During her college days, Katayama worked as a singer at a jazz bar. One day, a customer heckled at her “a woman who doesn’t wear high heels is not a woman.” The vexation led Katayama to initiate this project while still a postgraduate student. However, as she carried out research and development of her prostheses, she was faced with the fact of society that not everyone has the freedom – or open choice – to even hold an aspiration, like a young child walking awkwardly on their mother’s high heels. There are very few options given through public assistance, particularly social welfare, in Japan. This almost felt like an affirmation that fashion is a luxury, and not an important element in the rehabilitation and social activities of the concerned party. Whether it was a pair of very excessive and iconic high heels, or a piece of clothing that was easy to put on and take off so that one could go to the toilet alone, they were all in the realm of fashion, and not seen as part of welfare.

“When you have a dream, you realise that you don’t have a choice,” says Katayama, who noticed that this is a problem faced by everyone in society, regardless of whether they have a disability or not. The most important thing is not that everyone should wear high heels or dress up, but that, first and foremost, they should have the freedom of choice to say what they want and what they don’t want. “I must continue to walk and speak up wearing symbolic and extreme high heels.” With the goal of freedom of choice open to all, Katayama has expanded the activities of the High Heel Project through lectures, live stage performances and artwork productions.

The project was temporarily suspended due to Katayama’s pregnancy and childbirth, but relaunched its second edition in 2022.

A notable feature of the second edition is that Sergio Rossi, the luxury Italian shoe brand, was invited as a partner to develop the high heels. And the completely custom-made “Mari K” was born. Katayama’s creative activities, which began with the creation of hand-sewn objects using needles and threads, found a fascinating connection with the skilled “handiwork” of the brand’s craftspeople involved in the entire manufacturing process of a pair of shoes. In addition, Katayama’s resonance with founder Sergio Rossi’s philosophy that “shoes are an extension of a woman’s legs” led to their partnership in the project. As a media collaborator, VOGUE JAPAN, who raises awareness of social issues and introduces the latest national and international examples with a focus on diversity & inclusion, sustainability, and work & life, worked side by side with the project. While reporting on the project’s progress, they also wrote articles based on the interview series they organised spanning a variety of topics and guests over the course of the year 2022.

A sponsorship agreement was made with Nabtesco Corporation. They contributed “ALLUX2,” the Japan-made electronic prosthetic legs, to the project, which dramatically expanded the scope of Katayama’s activities and boosted the project. A special website for the High Heel Project was also launched, featuring Katayama’s dialogues with the engineers and prosthetists, and served as a bridge between users, engineers and companies.

More than in the first edition of the project, through connecting and speaking with different people, the second edition has questioned not only the “freedom of choice” but also the possibilities of social welfare and the body itself. As ever, the project keeps moving toward the goal of “freedom to aspire to ideals” for all.

Who does it belong to?

The status of being “the concerned party” sometimes becomes an obstacle to speech and action. The person concerned will always be “special.” What is special cannot become “normal” and the thoughts of someone “special” can never be listened to as “normal” matters. It is extremely difficult for others to walk into the world of those who are viewed as special and unknown in today’s society, where words and numbers form the basis of judgement. Therefore, the presence of Sergio Rossi, VOGUE JAPAN and Nabtesco has become a great source of strength and courage for the High Heel Project.

My artistic activities began with the creation of hand-sewn objects “within my reach,” but the High Heel Project has become “everyone’s work” through various encounters and collaborations. My mother taught me to “keep doing what you can do,” and this has led to the result that before I knew it, I became able to do what I could not do before.

“Who does the artwork belong to?” Does it belong to the person who made it, the person who owns it, or does it conform to its whereabouts? As I decided to donate my early object works, which I have kept to myself for many years, to a museum, I often think about “possession.”

Even if you think that “this belongs to me,” it must often be hard to say for sure when you trace its origin. For example, I cannot say that I “own” my body and my activities, which are made possible by the presence of various people and support mechanisms, such as prosthetists who know my body better than I do, prosthetic component developers, partners in the production of high heels, social support from the disability welfare system, my family and my friends. It is in fact very difficult to consciously have an “ideal self” or “identity” as a person who has been shaped by encounters with various people and surrounding environments. The sense of obligation to “love myself” and the responsibility of belonging only to myself that arises at the same time are also rather troublesome. In contrast, it is not uncommon for others to locate the authors and their work, as a practice of giving social labels. It sometimes feels hurtful and resentful to hear others’ labelling of us and our work, but it may also help us find our own contours and place to be.

What do you choose and how do you live your life in this world? Nowadays, individuals can easily communicate through social media. Not only the way you dress or where you are, but also your behaviour in the community you belong to and even the things you have done in the past, are being socialised. How much of this is you and how much is not you? Who do I and you belong to, and where are we?

My self-portrait works I have child’s feet and I’m wearing little high heels (both 2011), made on the theme of the High Heel Project, became part of the collection of Tate Modern last year and will be exhibited there this autumn. Having your own work acquired by a public museum truly brings a feeling of them becoming “everyone’s work.” And at the same time, there is a sense as if the work and the project are free to set off on their own journey.

With the completion of the second pair of high heels, the High Heel Project once again stands on a new starting line. Now, where shall we walk with these shoes, with this body, with this life?



自由に選択できる一つになってほしい。 “

ハイヒール・プロジェクトとは、アーティストの片山真理が、ハイヒールを履ける義足を製作し、歩き、ステージに立つまでを目指し2011 年にスタートしたプロジェクトです。



活動は片山の妊娠・出産により一時休止されましたが、2022年に第二弾として再スタートしました。特筆すべきは、今回、イタリアのラグジュアリーシューズブランド Sergio Rossi(セルジオ ロッシ)をハイヒール開発するパートナーに迎え、完全オーダーメイドにより「Mari K」が制作されたことです。針と糸による手縫いのオブジェ制作から始まった片山の創作活動と、シューズ1足の全製造工程にあるブランド専属の職人による熟練の「手仕事」が繋がり、創始者であるセルジオ・ロッシ氏の「シューズは女性の脚の延長である」という理念に片山が共鳴したことにより、セルジオ ロッシのプロジェクト参加が決まりました。 また、メディアコラボレーターとして、ダイバーシティ&インクルージョン、サステナビリティ、ワーク&ライフを主軸に社会課題の啓発や国内外の最新事例を紹介するVOGUE JAPANが並走し、2022年の1年間、プロジェクトの進捗報告や対談企画を発信していきました。そしてナブテスコ株式会社と協賛契約を締結し、日本製の電子制御義足「ALLUX2」がプロジェクトに対し提供され、片山の活動範囲が飛躍的に広がりプロジェクトを後押ししました。開発者や義肢装具士との対談をメインに掲げられたハイヒール・プロジェクトの特設サイトも開設され、ユーザー、開発者、企業の架け橋となりました。




「当事者」という立場は、時として発言や活動に障害となる場合があります。いつまでたっても当事者は「特別」であって、特別なことは「普通」になることも、その考えを普及させることもできません。そして、そんな「特別」で、未知の世界へ他者が歩み寄ることは、言葉や数字で判断されるこの社会ではとても難しいことです。そんな中、セルジオ ロッシやVOGUE JAPAN、ナブテスコの存在はハイヒールプロジェクトにとって大きな力と勇気になりました。





プロジェクトをテーマに制作した『子供の足の私』と『小さなハイヒールを履く私』(ともに2011年)のセルフポートレート作品は、昨年tate modernにコレクションされ、今年の秋に同館で展示を予定しています。公共の美術館にコレクションされることはまさに「みんなの作品」になったという実感があり、同時に作品、そしてプロジェクトの自由な旅立ちを感じます。


Mari K