It's tough work being a shoe designer. Footwear is the most technical, labour-intensive, time consuming and difficult to sell of all fashion categories and so debuts are few and far between. Over the past few years however, we've seen a dramatic increase in the number of new shoe designers, obsessives with a clear design personality and obsession with their craft, and the hangers-on who survive a few seasons copying and pasting from other designers and designing based on "trend" rather than any distinctive point of view. Every second on Instagram there is someone going "OMG I DIE" over a total snoozefest pair of heels and i'm like really? Really? Because that's just a worse-exceuted mash-up of Jimmy Choo: The Mellon Years. Or some dumb gimmick that every single designer on the planet suddenly uses on their shoes to pass of as "quirky." Boring.
I'm a firm believer that if you have nothing interesting to say, don't open your mouth. If you don't have a clear point of view, don't call yourself a designer.
So let's discriminate... I present you the ones who have something interesting to say.
His shoes always follow soft lines and are short on excess clutter. The gentle swoop and extreme simplicity of this upper with thick laces balance perfectly on an oversized and slightly off-place heel. On his lower style, a dainty mid-heel pump is touches by the magic of his severe swoops and a razor-thin, slotting ankle strap. Steiger always manages to seamlessly combine fluid lines and simple swiss cuts with more aggressive (but never obvious) elements.
A designer who never settles, Alessandra Lanvin doesn't do half way. Her bubbly toe shape is distinctive, as is her commitment to a graphic aesthetic that recalls dinosaurs drawn with large Crayola markers. Dainty low sandals heels balance thin straps with cartoonish shoes and ball-studs on the back. An alley cat caught in city lights. She never fails to find that something new that despite not having seen it before, you recognize as 100% Aperlai. Be its a blindingly bright high-throat pump in a distinctive over-large toe shape with Cruella De Ville pom poms or a vision of wavy dinosaurish glory, she gets you every time. She offers one of the few truly fresh perspectives in the market. She is committed to the value of no-compromise. Respect.
To be honest, the first time I was exposed to Bionda I was like... eeeh. Then I was like ooooh. Their long points and relative conservatism may seem old fashioned but after a few seasons, the brand's identity became very clear. It's all about this extreme delicacy. Biondas are the lace blouses of shoes. They combine leathers in precious easter egg colors with delicate panels of mesh. Their Maite mule was absolute perfection. Their extremely skinny straps accentuate all the right places, their delicate panels of mesh giving lightness and the illusion of the most delicate of casings on the foot. Giveaways are a nineties point, princessy lace and sweet little laces that tie into bows. Their conservatism and prissiness is a total plus. I'm such a fan.
Charlotte Olympia: She ain't new but Charly gets them every time. Everytime you're like I can't look at another one, she makes you want more. Every shoe is designed with a clear passion. Every elements is made to serve the design and after all these years, her shoes are still fun, happy and naive. She stuck to her guns aesthetic-wise and it made her a star. I salute you Charlotte.
Theresa Ebagua focuses on thick leather panels, color contrast, curves and folds. She'd balance a large, curving mule upper with a straight stuck-on heel and make it contemporary. Her lines are dramatic and recognizable and her materials She has a clear look and her contemporary take on curve and large uppers singles her out.
It's hard to make Made In China work when it comes to shoes. Isa Tapia's focus on weird, elvish styles and a cartoonish look was a win. She managed to make the problems of non-Made in Italy shoes to her advantage. She developed her own strange heels and focused on thicker, bolder styles (easier to get perfect) rather than more delicate ones. Style-wise, she did not try to compete with other luxury footwear brands (which if made outside if Italy usually leads to what looks like a cheaper product with a large toe spring, bad finishing and an imbalanced heel) by offering the same thing at a cheaper price but created a fun, Irregular Choice-y style of her own that looks great as it is! I love people who don't sell out when faced with difficult circumstances.
Also no one new here but I have always admired his bordello aesthetic. This season saw the introduction of this really flamboyant high high Steampunk-y heel. Paired with his signature steep curves and (this season) giant Moulin-Rougeish net on top of a suede sandal boot, it's a whole new take on his fabulous Jessica Rabbit sexy.
Okay mega-house here but no one gives their shoes any attention. They're pretty awesome.