March 11 2011
Cue a collective sigh of relief from women everywhere as the words “pretty,” “happy” and even “festive” aptly describe this summer’s standout shoe trend. Appropriating a sparkly smorgasbord of metallic sheen, glitter and sequins typically associated with the winter party season, 2011 footwear has been injected with a much-needed sense of frivolity. Shoe designers from New York’s Tabitha Simmons to Paris-based Laurence Dacade say they have embraced the trend with gusto precisely because it’s joyous, feminine and lends an unexpected, bare-legged kick to fashion. Indeed, they and others, such as Nicholas Kirkwood, consider such shoes to be almost season-less, a viable match with perennial pretty summer dresses as well as the all-white or colour-blocked clothing seen on the runways for spring/summer 2011.
“Footwear is in a much less aggressive mood this season,” explains Browns’ accessory buyer Pam Brady, who is carrying glitter styles by Tabitha Simmons and LA-based Jerome Rousseau. “I think we could even see businesswomen heading to daytime meetings wearing glitter because it works with the current clean, toned-down aesthetic of clothes.”
Some credit the reappearance of sparkly shoes to the fact that the world’s gone mad about ballroom dancing. Take the hit BBC show Strictly Come Dancing, which has spawned spin-offs in 32 countries around the world, including Dancing With The Stars in the US. Christian Louboutin has always had a thing about showgirls and circus acts and there’s plenty of glitter in his collection (such as his Pigalle shoes, £445). Meanwhile, Simmons says that flamenco and the tango inspired her to design Demi (£915), a silver sparkly shoe with a crossover buckle, and also in her collection is Dixie (from £605), a shoe that sports a chunky heel and mixes glitter with leather or lizard skin (£950). “I opted for glitter because it’s cheery,” she says. “I love to see glitter shoes worn with tea dresses that are light and romantic. Also, as Dixie is mixed with lizard, it doesn’t have to be worn just at night. I think the juxtaposition is unexpected – it’s an unusual combination that people haven’t seen before.” The fashion-stylist-cum-shoe-designer says she’s always been fond of a bit of sparkle. Back in the 1990s, she remembers being the proud owner of a pair of Miu Miu court shoes that sparkled with sequins and which she “wore to death”. These days, Miu Miu regularly includes glitter in its collections and this season there’s a gold glitter court shoe (£345) as well as black or silver glitter lace-ups (£345).
There’s also a dance connection at Jimmy Choo, where two styles in the brand’s 15th Crystal Anniversary Collection go by the names of Samba (£495) and Salsa (£425). “I love the fun that glitter accessories can bring to any outfit,” says founder Tamara Mellon, adding that glitter features most seasons due to its popularity. “The trick is to keep glitter solely to accessories – you don’t want to overdo it. Quality materials and workmanship are essential for this look to work.” Hence her signature glitter fabric is made in England; the ethereal effect created by laying small glitter discs on a base fabric that is then overlaid with a metallic lace mesh.
Nicholas Kirkwood, who is new to glitter this season and has courts in blue, black or anthracite (from £460), and Jerome Rousseau, who has included glitter in his collection for the past three years, have both made a point of side-stepping the colour red. “It’s true, people think of Dorothy whenever glitter shoes are mentioned,” explains Rousseau, “but I think there’s something a bit cheesy about red, so I’ve used metallic finishes or a colour like poison green [£308].” His boots (£490) in particular have a Moulin Rouge quality about them, and have sold better in glitter than the version in leather.
“I love to use glitter paired with a natural tan leather, which tones it down,” continues Rousseau. “It takes the shoes from dressy to something that works with jeans.” He uses an Italian material specially created for footwear: the glitter is fabric-backed and created like sandpaper – layered with a combination of small and large particles – so the glitter doesn’t shed .
According to Laurence Dacade, the sequins used to make her shoes require very special care, so much so that the craftsmen who make them do so wearing white gloves. She too likes the idea of sequins in the day. “It tends to be very cool and even more fun than at night,” she says, adding that her gold Rythm shoe (€455) works well with oversized men’s trousers, while her heeled sandals (from €625) work with shorts (for the young) or skirts. But putting sequins with sequins – say, pairing her shoes with an elaborate Ashish number – is a mistake. “It is essential to mix the sequins with more casual clothes to look chic,” she asserts.
London-based Michael Lewis is no stranger to show-stopping shoes. Before launching his own collection in 2009, he worked for a number of labels, including Louis Vuitton. Most recently, he designed the shoes for Tom Ford’s first women’s collection, while his creations for Versace hit the runways in February. He says his collection for Ford began with a sequin element, but this ended up in clothing, not footwear. However, sequin sandals (£340), “inspired by Peggy Guggenheim and her hedonistic, glamorous lifestyle”, do feature in Lewis’s eponymous collection this season. “There is a definite return to pretty shoes,” he says. “They have become lighter, softer and more feminine, with bows and adornments.”
This trend isn’t just about heels. Glitter and sequins also appear on flats from Spanish companies such as Pedro García (from £380) and Pretty Ballerinas. “It feels like the right time for footwear to be fun again,” says David Bell, founder and creator of Pretty Ballerinas, who has glitter and sequin ballerina pumps (from £149) in his collection. British designer Emma Hope, who makes dainty flats that have an almost Regency feel, cites fish scales as the inspiration for her sequin shoes (£379), created using three different sizes of sequins embroidered in whirls. “They’re very pretty, especially in old gold; a half-gold-half-silver colour,” she says. She has also given her raffia ballerinas (£249) a metallic spin. “The straw is sprayed gold and silver, and has a vintage feel because of the uneven finish on the hand-weave.” And for Parisian glamour, Vionnet too has a sequin flat (£895).
Net-a-Porter’s buying director Holli Rogers suggests this look can work right through to summer: “Wear a closed-toe metallic pump from Brian Atwood [£355] with opaques for spring and come summer, opt for a metallic wedge or flat sandal. A sequined flat can be worn day and night.” The many permutations of this micro-trend include rose-gold sculptural wedges at YSL [£805], metallic leather worker boots at Ralph Lauren [£760] and gold straps on sandals tempered with neons and white at Miu Miu [from £380] – it’s a fresh take on the more opulent golds first seen for autumn.
Judging by the elaborate gold numbers surfacing at Alexander McQueen (from £325), gold heels at Chloé (€445) and gold uppers spotted at French designer Benoît Méléard (from €340), the Midas touch is evident now too. “Gold leather is super-clichéd to me, and I love cliché as it’s in everyone’s subconscious,” says Méléard, who relaunched his namesake collection in Paris last October. “It’s very French, very Versailles, very Louis XIV.”