A fresh focus on fabrics and pattern, together with fashion’s flirtation with a gothic Victoriana vibe, has helped usher in the ankle bootie as this season’s shoe silhouette of choice. Extremely elegant with slim or block heels and only an inkling of a platform sole, it both complements the longer, more extravagant statement skirts and makes sophisticated pairings with shorter hemlines and trousers.
“Saint Laurent produced my favourite interpretation of the Victoriana mood,” says Ida Petersson, senior buyer of shoes at Net-a-Porter, “which added punk-rock elements into booties, as did Givenchy which presented a version [€1,050] with studs and a curved heel.” Christian Louboutin’s nappa-leather high-heeled Troopista (£895) with hook and eye detailing also embraces a rock-chic look with elegance.
Leopard too is a strong trend. Interestingly, one of the most intriguing ankle boots unveiled at the V&A’s Shoes: Pleasure & Pain exhibition (until January 2016) was a style created in 1943 by a South Kensington shoemaker out of a client’s leopard-fur coat (its appeal put down to the ingenuity of design in a time of adversity), and it could have been the long lost cousin of Dolce & Gabbana’s mid-calf-length velvet leopard-print ankle boot (£1,250, pictured overleaf) or Charlotte Olympia’s flat Puss In Boots (£795). Brian Atwood, too, has used a leopard print this season on his Elsa bootie (£1,600). “I love the proportion of this boot’s thicker heel, which is perfect for pacing across the city, while the metal details add a touch of extra glamour to the leopard print,” he says.
Another notable exhibit that has inspired a modern designer is the tattoo ankle bootie created by London-based designer Olivia Morris at the start of her career in 2000. Fast-forward 15 years and there’s Laurence Dacade’s Insolente (£720) with its block heel and mid-calf length. “The idea of the tattoo boot was to recreate the sensuality and nudity of the skin, and ink it exactly like a real tattoo,” says Dacade. This longer length is another key theme, also seen in Valentino’s zip-fronted patent booties (£880, pictured overleaf), or skin-tight and stretchy at Alexander McQueen (with an art-deco heel, £1,035, pictured overleaf) and Dior (with a translucent yellow Perspex block heel, £1,100, pictured top right). Worn with this season’s more romantic skirts and dresses, these mid-calf-length booties add an edge and elongate the leg.
More higher-rise boots can be found at Paula Cademartori. Indeed, versatility is a key feature of this season’s ankle booties and designers themselves love them just as much as their customers. “Ankle boots provide more surface of the shoe to play with, allowing me to get really creative with embellishment such as beadwork or embroidery,” says Manolo Blahnik, whose elaborate styles include the exquisite Zarina (£2,540, pictured overleaf) with an extra band of beading above the ankle. Similarly, at Jimmy Choo there’s the intricate Keri 120 (£1,495, pictured above right) with a peep toe, crystal embroidery and a high mesh ruffle that frames the ankle in much the same way as a ruffle-neck blouse might frame the face.
It is rare to find an accessories designer who starts with handbags and moves into shoes (it typically happens the other way around), but this is the trajectory of Cademartori, who launches her first footwear range this season. The collection includes the Warrior lace-through high-rise ankle bootie (about £888), which recalls the footwear of Greek warriors and is also suggestive of 1950s bustiers. Combining rust, tan and black leather and with cut-out turquoise teardrop shapes, it is just as eye-catching as Cademartori’s most spectacular bags.
Clearly, ankle booties provide a canvas for a variety of styles. “Unusual details include wings on the heels at Sophia Webster [£575, pictured on previous page],” says buying manager at Selfridges Helen Attwood, “while the all-over floral print at Valentino [£840] creates a real wow factor.” Buckles add a punky edge at both Saint Laurent (example pictured below far right, £845) and Tabitha Simmons (example pictured above far right, £685), while at Burberry, the sepia-grey and dark-blue canvas and suede Ponytail style (£950, pictured top second from left) comes studded and fringed. Fringes also feature on Bionda Castana’s Sahar boot (£585), offered in aubergine or lilac. “Whether fringed and Western in style or with zips, buckles and monk straps, ankle boots are so versatile,” says Natalia Barbieri, one half of the duo behind the brand that opened its first flagship store on London’s Elizabeth Street in June. “They work just as well with casual flares as a formal mid-length dress.”
Fringing is also at play at Aquazzura. “I wanted to present fringe in a different way, so paired it with tassels,” explains the brand’s founder and creative director Edgardo Osorio, referring to his cognac suede Woodstock booties (£680, pictured on previous page) that have been singled out by Net-a-Porter’s Petersson as a “must-have”. “It gives them a boho touch that I feel is very on-trend right now,” Osorio adds. Ankle boots are an integral part of Aquazzura’s autumn collection and will feature prominently at the brand’s first London store, opening on Albemarle Street in October. “I wanted London to have a unique selection so we will offer a lot of exclusives,” Osorio says, pointing out an array of feather-covered couture booties (£1,695) that take two days to make; customised versions in other colours will also be offered in-store. Osorio hopes the block heels – “so fresh and cool” – will allow women to wear them all day long.
Indeed, the block heel continues to gain momentum. “Gianvito Rossi has owned this style for the past few seasons,” says Petersson. “We especially love his very simple, soft suede ankle booties [£615] in tan or black, which are wardrobe essentials, though for evening glamour there are also black slim-heeled booties with laser-cut detailing [£895] and a suede-trimmed peep-toe style [£745] in Chantilly lace.”
Pattern and print also play their part. Rupert Sanderson and Antonio Berardi put their heads together to create punchy booties (£795, pictured on previous page) in sunflower, paint-splattered or army-pink jacquard fabrics for the latter’s February show. “An ankle boot can make a woman appear revealed and yet concealed, sensuous yet chaste; they convey a contradictory but highly compelling state of femininity,” says Berardi.
In another collaboration, fashion designer Mary Katrantzou has worked with shoemaker Gianvito Rossi to create a selection of statement booties (from £525). “Vibrant ponyskins and metallic jacquards add another dimension to an outfit,” Katrantzou tells me. “Ankle boots are the perfect transitional piece from day to evening, and with a block heel, they’re super-comfortable too.”
Not surprisingly, many female footwear designers love wearing ankle booties themselves. “They are the most versatile addition to my winter wardrobe: they look stylish, are warmer than flats and are just so easy to wear when you’re running around,” says Louise Braham-Guillot, the designer behind new London label Louise Leah, whose pointed black suede and snakeskin London Stripe style (£645) have an element of rock ’n’ roll. And judging by the 2016 resort shows that included Western-style ankle boots teamed with shorts and dresses at Valentino, they’ll be plenty more innovative iterations of this popular silhouette in the months to come.