Best footwear forward

Designers are stepping out to bring fearless colours, graphic designs and plenty of flair to the trendsetting brave; but there’s more than enough for traditionalists too.

You may not actually want to wear Kanye West’s transparent Yeezy Season 2 sandals but, believe it or not, many women – very stylish women at that – are doing so right now. What else are they wearing? Couture sneakers (men, too, of course) for any occasion, creations from white-hot designers who are making big names for themselves globally, and anything with a celebrity following (think the new crop of Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks). Africa has a proud import in the form of Liam Fahy, a designer hailing from Zimbabwe, who has set up shop in London and now designs shoes. Some reflect a distinct African style – his Elle Java Print made from canvas cotton is straight from this continent’s heritage. For men, traditional footwear such as loafers still feature strongly, but they’ve been modernised with colour updates like Louis Vuitton’s soft red loafers – seek out the house’s Monte Carlo Moccasins in Rouge.

Sneaker Culture
Last year an exhibition entitled ‘The Rise of Sneaker Culture’ was held at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, in the US. On display were 155 sneakers and viewers could follow the evolution of the shoe from its origins in the mid-19th century to its role in the present day as a status symbol of urban culture. Originating at the Bata Shoe Museum (a footwear museum in Toronto, Canada), the exhibition examined the sneaker’s complex social history and immense cultural significance. And it wasn’t just all running shoes; sneakers by Prada and other major fashion design houses as well as collaborations with artists like Damien Hirst were there to be seen. These days you can wear yours with anything – sports luxe is the look. Fling on a camel cashmere coat and a pair of Alexander McQueen’s oversized sneakers made from calf’s leather and trust us, it’s a polished style. For men, Dolce & Gabbana’s handsome black canvas sneakers with Patches of the Designers are extremely versatile in a classic wardrobe. Ditto Gucci’s Ace Sneaker collection. Although the addition of the tiger applique certainly makes them more sartorial-statement than staid. But maybe that’s a good thing.

The Collector’s Couture
In the ’90s and noughties, women were Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik-mad. They still are, but fortunately, they’ve ditched the tired notion that these labels are the only ones that count. Fresh names are becoming collector’s dreams; their designs works of exquisite art. One such label belongs to British shoe and accessories designer Sophia Webster; her almost ethereal creations with their delicate laser-cut angel and butterfly wings have become a recognisable trademark. If too much detail isn’t your aesthetic, turn to another Brit to dress your feet. Paul Andrew’s sleek, graphic-like designs feature strong outlines as seen in his Bagutta sandals (in lipstick-red suede) and two-toned Brera slingbacks. For winter, invest in his pointed-toe Matteotti boot, triple-dyed in black suede. You won’t be disappointed.

The New Rules for Men
There’s a perception, perhaps among the more mature set, that a man’s footwear wardrobe is confined to dress shoes, loafers, sneakers (now de rigueur) and a pair of perfectly polished black cap-toes ideal to wear with a tux. A few years ago a Time magazine poll revealed that the average man owns 12 pairs of shoes. But what if you need to branch out? As men tend to be creatures of habit, why not slip into a pair of something you’ve never worn before like Hugo Boss’s formal Chelsea boots in leather. For summer, the house has leather Derby shoes with ombre uppers (choose brown for the warmer weather). Brogues maketh a modern man too; if you’re feeling adventurous, try a statement pair like Prada’s leather studded brogues in black.

Original article by Helen Clemson shortened for online publication


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