Something Solid to Go With Spring's Frills
By CATHY HORYN
Published: April 6, 2004
Four or five years ago, when Miuccia Prada was in her Saint Laurent phase and Marc Jacobs had begun to shake the plums from fashion's vintage tree, I left for Europe with a pair of black suede Azzedine Alaļa pumps. Made by Diego Della Valle in the late 1980's, around the time he was producing all of Alaļa's shoes, and bought at Linda Dresner in Birmingham, Mich., they looked like the sort of shoe a woman could do anything in except work. They were cut low and almost square across the toes, so that your feet looked improbably small, and they had a slight platform and a shapely heel that made you think of Bettie Page or perhaps the wife of a South American dictator.
I wore them once or twice in the 80's. Then I put them away, true sleeping beauties.
What fashion woke up to in the late 90's, thanks to a slap from Ms. Prada and Mr. Jacobs, was that clothing designers were increasingly determining the look of shoes and other accessories. There had been collaborations between dress- and shoemakers: before establishing his Tod's and Hogan labels, Mr. Della Valle had made shoes for many designers, and Manolo Blahnik, the London-based shoe king, continues to have him do so. Still, it says as much as about the power of Prada as about our collective memory drain that almost no one imagined the snub-nosed black suede pumps might be Alaļa.
"I think all these rules about shoes Do I wear a platform with a retro style, or can I wear a chunky shoe with chiffon? were broken by Prada," said Candy Pratts Price, the executive fashion director of Style.com and a former accessories editor at Vogue. For spring, Prada has chunky platform sandals as well as sling-back high heels. One can argue that the prevalence this season of round-toed pumps with stacked heels at Chanel and Jil Sander owes something to Prada's influence. It can also be argued that some of Ms. Prada's contrasts look contrived: if you see women this fall wearing tweed coats with bare legs and summery slides, you'll know where the idea started.
Wearing a chunky sandal or a wedge heel is an easy way to counteract the ultrafemininity of spring. And though you can wear flats and slides with miniskirts and shorts, it looks newer to wear those looks with a chunky heel.
"We're definitely selling a stronger, chunkier shoe for spring," said Judy Collinson, the general merchandising manager of Barneys New York, pointing to good sales from a number of lines, including Robert Clergerie, which has several stacked-heel sandals; Ann Demeulemeester; and Guillaume Hinfray, a French designer who has worked for companies like Sergio Rossi and Dr. Scholl's, and has been selling his own brand at Barneys for more than a year.
Mr. Hinfray, who frequently draws on his Norman roots, works with materials like suede and metal studs, and has created a Perspex-heel clog for summer. "I wanted to make shoes that I wasn't able to do for other companies," Mr. Hinfray said. "Something very feminine, sexy and rough, all at the same time." He paused. "Of course, you can buy sexy and feminine from Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik. But, in a way, you know what you're getting."
To judge from the action last week at the Blahnik boutique on East 54th Street and the shoe salon at Bergdorf Goodman, Carrie Bradshaw's favorite designer does not appear to be hurting. "We're having one of our best springs," said George Malkemus, the chief executive of Manolo Blahnik in the United States, who just returned from a two-week trip to Neiman Marcus stores.
Although Mr. Blahnik now carries a somewhat thicker heel, in response to fashion, he has no intention of reissuing his earlier platforms. He is a little bit like Mr. Alaļa in that sense. Neither has any interest in going backward. In 1984, Mr. Blahnik designed two platform pumps, which he called Daisy and Cosmo and which were inspired by Bette Davis in "Now, Voyager."
But as Mr. Malkemus recalls, when American stores asked Mr. Blahnik nearly a dozen years ago if he might do a chunky sole (in response, again, to fashion), he refused. "I remember Manolo saying, `I hated platforms in the 80's, and I hate them now,' " Mr. Malkimus said. "The stores were kind of nervous. We ended up having the most phenomenal season that year."
Some young designers sympathize with Mr. Blahnik. "I hate platforms!" said Alexandra Neel, a 27-year-old Paris shoemaker, whose delicately detailed shoes are sold at stores like Jeffrey and Barneys. Curiously, Ms. Neel said her inspiration is not chic Parisiennes of the Loulou de la Falaise era, but rather Carrie Bradshaw's sisters. "This new American generation of girls really understands what I do," Ms. Neel said. "They want to be attractive and sexy but not vulgar."
Yet memories are inevitably short. As Ms. Price points out, young designers often look to Mr. Blahnik as their reference library. Charles Jourdan, Salvatore Ferragamo "That's prehistory to them," she said.
Correction: April 7, 2004, Wednesday
Because of an editing error, an article on the fashion page yesterday about new chunky shoes for spring misstated a business association of the shoe designer Diego Della Valle. Mr. Della Valle has made shoes for many dress designers, but not for the shoe designer Manolo Blahnik.
"There's a fine line between Chaos and Creation"- Sir Paul McCartney
Originally posted by Article They were cut low and almost square across the toes, so that your feet looked improbably small, and they had a slight platform and a shapely heel that made you think of Bettie Page or perhaps the wife of a South American dictator.
Originally posted by Atelier+Apr 7th, 2004 - 9:49 am--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Atelier @ Apr 7th, 2004 - 9:49 am)</div><div class='quotemain'> <!--QuoteBegin-Article They were cut low and almost square across the toes, so that your feet looked improbably small, and they had a slight platform and a shapely heel that made you think of Bettie Page or perhaps the wife of a South American dictator.
I love the way Cathy writes. [/b][/quote]
Guy Trebay > Cathy Horyn