If any one fabric encapsulates fashion’s current love affair with opulence, it’s velvet. On the autumn/winter catwalks it was deployed by countless designers in myriad ways: modern with a punkish spirit at Haider Ackermann (where crushed velvet, that 1970s must-have, made several appearances), cool and sleek at Stella McCartney, and wonderfully decadent at Ralph Lauren, where inky-blue velvet was cut into jackets and gilt-embroidered dress coats. At Valentino it was pure and innocent in mustard, high‑necked, long-sleeved monastic robes and bottle-green feminine ballerina dresses, while Dries Van Noten showed deep‑claret velvet smoking jackets and seductively split floor‑length skirts that looked terrific paired with boyish cardigans and heaps of chunky jewels.
But it is the velvet accessories that are most likely to steal women’s hearts this winter as the material lends its glamorous lustre to a cornucopia of shoes and boots, bags and clutches. Few are more arresting than those created by Miuccia Prada for the current Miu Miu collection. Vertiginous black velvet evening shoes (£885) with dainty ankle straps are topped with generous ribbon bows and ornate gems, while Victoriana lace-up black velvet ankle boots (£1,025) are finished with a contrasting white satin bow. Her bags are just as desirable: mini velvet box clutches (£1,160) with crystal are hung from delicate pearl and crystal chains (£2,010); claret velvet evening bags (£1,280) come pleated and looped on to a gilt chain; box bags (£1,710) in jade velvet are suspended from grosgrain straps and fastened with ornate giltwork and crystal clasps. The designer also revelled in velvet at Prada, where chunky bicolour platforms (£580) in emerald and black or navy and claret worked alongside miniature black bags (£1,400) embellished with shooting stars and crescent moons.
The fabric is so integral at Jimmy Choo this season that even the label’s lookbook is adorned with ruby-red velvet. “We are seeing opulence return to fashion,” says creative director Sandra Choi, who looked to the belle époque and military regalia to inspire her autumn collection, “and velvet fits perfectly with that. It creates a sense of fluidity when it catches the light, working well with undulating curves, and makes any colour seem a notch deeper.” This is borne out by the brand’s Mari shoe (£595), in rich ruby or ochre, with cutouts and lacing that are at once seductive and playful. The more delicate Lacey stiletto (£575), in the same colours, has elegant straps and a deep scoop across the toes, while the chunkier, slightly retro Daphne platform (£625) comes in a deep moss green and makes a very glamorous day shoe. Choi herself is devoted to the lace-up Deon velvet platforms (£695) with an abbreviated tongue that reveals a little skin and helps, Choi says, extend the leg. “Wearing velvet shoes during the day feels very contemporary,” she suggests. “In the past, the fabric was mostly associated with evening but it can be worn casually – a velvet shoe with jeans has a hip nonchalance and provides a great contrast.”
She’s right: velvet works beautifully with other textures – creating a covetable more-is-more aesthetic at Sonia Rykiel, where pearl-studded clutches (£505) and handbags (£350) in midnight blue were paired with gorgeous fur or astrakhan jackets, while at Prada some utterly of-the-moment walking boots (£1,070) in midnight blue or moss-green velvet infuse the utilitarian with an injection of lustrous glamour and look fabulous with ultra-feminine floral appliqué dresses. Velvet is key at Stella McCartney this season, too, where foldover black velvet clutches (£910) contrast beautifully with nubbly tweeds, and royal-blue totes (£1,125) bring a richness to a crisp white shirt and pleated black skirt. More eye-catching velvet bags can be found at Gucci, in claret, gold or peacock blue (£955), with chain straps and that hyper‑desirable GG logo, and at Jimmy Choo, where the inky-blue Lockett Petite bag (£1,295) is sprinkled with shiny metal studs.
What’s surprising, perhaps, is the endless variety of pieces in a material that, until now, hasn’t had a particularly cool reputation. “Velvet has been completely reworked and this season has more attitude than we’ve seen before,” says Laura Larbalestier, womenswear buying director at Browns. “Designers are having fun with it and giving us lots of covetable iterations – crushed, jewel-coloured, top-to-toe.” If you buy one piece, make it a velvet boot, she suggests, citing as a favourite Dries Van Noten’s deliciously 1970s-esque crushed-velvet ankle boots (from £525), some with pearl-encrusted heels. Chloé’s chocolate velvet cowboy ankle boots (£870), also at Browns, have more chutzpah, with their gold buckles and copious gold studwork, while Tabitha Simmons’ lace-up black velvet ankle boots (£515) offer an elegant sophistication.
The joy of velvet also lies in its inherent softness, which perhaps accounts for the incredible rise of the velvet slipper, at once cosseting and chicly understated. It was Hannah MacGibbon, during her tenure at Chloé, who first transformed the velvet slipper (trimmed in grosgrain and lined with a quilted burgundy satin) into a cool and cultish accessory. Since then, endless houses have followed suit. This season they come in black velvet embellished with gems at Church’s (£320), richly embroidered with a gilt crest at Saint Laurent (£535), topped with talismanic embroidery at Alexander McQueen (£725), and in an opulent claret at The Row (£660 at Net-a-Porter), where a streamlined velvet slipper has long been a staple piece. And variations on a cat‑embroidered velvet slipper (£425) – complete with whimsical kitty ears – have, of course, been consistent bestsellers for Charlotte Olympia.
This reinvigorated appetite for velvet slippers has also sparked numerous start-up brands specialising in slipper-style shoes. Le Monde Beryl, founded by Lily Hanbury and Katya Tyumentseva, is one of the more recent and is now being stocked by Alex Eagle. Its shoes (£285), based on the classic Venetian velvet slipper with rubber soles worn by gondoliers, have been updated in six jewel tones, including moss green, inky blue, yellow and pink, all made by hand in Florence.
Slippers, of course, can make brilliant evening flats, but for many women only heels will do for party season – and no heels are more opulent and glamorous than velvet ones. Gianvito Rossi’s raspberry velvet evening shoes (£495 at Browns) are seductively spare, with their super-elegant narrow straps, while Alexandre Birman’s dreamy ruby-red velvet Clarita sandals (£490) are topped with velvet bows.
Platforms with a retro 1940s/1970s look offer sophistication but with a cool-girl edge. Saint Laurent has a block-heeled pair (£535) in black or dark green, while Aquazzura’s rich-claret ones (£450 at Browns) and Jil Sander’s in teal (£460) have heaps of starlet glamour. At Rochas, Alessandro Dell’Acqua has channelled top-to-toe velvet, pairing intricately embroidered platforms (£782) in lilac and moss velvet with printed velvet trousers and frayed velvet blouses.
Boots in velvet become dressy enough for evening too: Gianvito Rossi has low-heeled ankle boots (£565) in jewel colours, including garnet and sapphire, transforming a simple shape into a really sumptuous accessory, while other designers have combined velvet with ornate decoration. Laurence Dacade’s burgundy velvet ankle boots (£615) are densely embroidered with folkloric flowers, while Brian Atwood’s (£545) are printed with geometric hippy swirls. And for that ultimate kick of cool evening nonchalance, Miu Miu’s velvet trainers (£1,025) topped with a crystal-embellished mesh are hard to beat.