The dynamic duo of footwear, Hardy and Louboutin, weigh in on hefty heels.
How to wear the season's shoes with style and confidence - from the masters who made them.
Style watchers are standing tall this season as they learn how to navigate difficult shoes with dignity. Accompanying the white sprigged cotton dresses that herald the mood of gentle girlish femininity that so many designers have chosen to focus on this summer, footwear is overwhelmingly about one thing – shoes with platform soles and vertiginous wedges, block, or cone heels that are the highest for many a long season.
The embrace of this solid shape has resulted in shoes that are, in many cases, exceptionally beautiful, while others may take a bit more getting used to. The desire is for height and relative solidity. Yet to avoid affecting the slow-moving gait reminiscent of a Chinese bound foot or the precarious perches of Venetian courtesans' chopines, the rudiments of walking have had to adopt a level of concentration and control similar to that of an artistic or athletic performance.
The recent big screen adaptation of "Memoirs of a Geisha" brought the idea of learning how to walk on super-elevated soles to a stylistic zenith, allying it to the revelation of femininity through the strictures of discipline within the framework of traditional observance. The identification with strict discipline is one that Azzedine Alaia has long alluded to, fetishizing footwear to a level that's more erotic than vicious, and this season fashion has, in so many ways, caught up with this unhurried visionary of legend.
Hermès' wood and glazed leather 'Memento' platform sandal leaves nothing to sully its clean lines, while Chloé's T-bar little girl shoes suddenly become showstoppers with the addition of an incongruous tree trunk-like platform wedge sole. Miuccia Prada has decorated her platform wedges with wicker, a toned-down nod to the awesome soles made of bamboo stilts she featured in her spring show last September. The extra surface area has been a boon to designers like Pierre Hardy who has run riot with a orgy of colorful stripes, and of course Alaia who sandwiches a sliver of cork amid a pastry confection of arcing red patent leather.
But be they beauty or beast, these high and heavy shoes can pose a difficult problem for those unaccustomed to such footwear flights of fancy. How does a lady walk in a clunky heel, how does she stand, how does she descend a staircase with dignity? In short, how does she remain upright and comfortable? We asked red-soled shoe supremo Christian Louboutin and the multitasking Pierre Hardy - two of the driving forces behind credible footwear trends - for their take on elevation and a rundown of the rules to observe when taking pride in your platforms.
1. Have you always loved wedges, chunky heels and platform soles?
PH: Yes, it's a part of my "fashion education"; actually it is my second step into it. The first one was the stilettos of my childhood, the second the wedges of my adolescence... I've always loved the silhouette they give: long legs with "heaviness" on the floor.
CL: Not always...I didn't like platforms when I was 12.
2. Pierre Hardy, how different is it for you creating trend-aware shoes for Pierre Hardy, Balenciaga and Hermès? Are there certain lines you can never cross at Hermès that you can at Balenciaga, for example?
PH: It's three different ways of working: the question isn't "WHICH" style couldn't be done for one label or the other, but "HOW" can it be done especially for Hermès, Balenciaga or myself.
3. Does creating a flattering example of this type of shoe pose a bigger challenge to you than creating a classic stiletto or a ballerina slipper, for example?
CL: No, the balance has to be controlled, but otherwise it doesn't request more.
PH: No. And, actually, creating the perfect "classic" stiletto is much more difficult than creating a more spectacular shoe.
4. After years of stilettos, do you see this newer shoe shape as a trend that's going to continue?
PH: I think it will last a bit because, after a few seasons, people might get used to the new image of their body created by this trend. Then it's difficult to change again once you've found confidence.
CL: The height will continue, but the shape will change. It's always very difficult to come down when you are at the top!
5. What should a woman bear in mind when she's buying a heavy shoe like this for the first time?
CL: Anchored to the ground by her new platform she will suddenly be able to see so much more from her newfound height.
PH: I've always thought that big shoes make the legs thinner.
6. Is there a certain type/shape of woman for whom this shoe style is never going to work?
CL: The Venetian women – too many bridges!
7. What are the basic rules for wearing these shoes?
CL: I would advise against a short dress unless you have colored stockings; don't try to run; pretend you are in a small space, like a caravan!
PH: I like it when girls walk with their feet a little bit twisted towards the inside...