Shoes to Obsess Over

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The ‘90s are back, influencing fashion in ways both overt and subtle. In the case of accessories, and especially footwear, this makes for an interesting dichotomy as the ‘90s saw not only the resurgence of casual–butch standards like the Birkenstock and Doc Martens, but also the birth of the status shoe-the more exaggerated the better.

Spotted on the S/S 2014 runways were styles that were all over the map. Highlights included the Palladium/Doc Martens redux seen at Zadig et Voltaire Deluxe, chunky heels and platforms redolent of ‘90s Prada at Stella McCartney, and hyperbolic Vans slip-ons at Celine. There were also more alarming trends, notably the return of the square toe at Acne, Reed Krakoff, and Maison Martin Margiela. Even those arch-collapsing Chinatown slippers that read oh-so-East Village for a split second in the nineties made a cameo at Alberta Ferretti. And that other ‘90s throwback, the John Fluevog Munster shoe favored by club kids? It was everywhere.

Thankfully a few designers and labels came through with shoes outrageous or inventive enough to pique our interest and dispel the unsettling sense of deja-vu.

Alexander McQueen’s S/S 2014 collection was reportedly inspired by some of the progressive art movements of the early twentieth century, meaning there was some high-concept incorporation of tribal details and‘20s silhouettes. It actually translated to a Masai warrior princess/Byzantine biker chick mash-up. The shoes shown with these garments followed suit: sculptural platform sandals were rendered in vinyl red patent and black snakeskin with squared-off gold buckles, tinted Lucite heels, complete with a semi-abstract monkey wrench heel appendage for good measure. The shoes, though dramatic, seemed wearable, thanks to the width of the straps and the nearly sensible heel. Even a fashion civilian could rock these shoes with a pair of cropped black trousers and a sharp leather jacket. Neo-Brutalist headdress strictly optional.

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Miu Miu’s show might best be described as Portobello Road Market chic. Classic hallmarks of vintage fashion such as beaded flapper dresses, vinyl skirts, and ruched ‘50s dresses were mixed and matched with abandon. Nearly every look was topped with a trim ‘70s cloth or suede coat. This may be the Spring/Summer collection, but the Miu Miu girl definitely lives in chilly London. Though most garments were accessorized with slouchy pointelle-knit stockings topped with contrast-color sandals or Mary Janes, the most memorable footwear was a pair of white patent lace-up boots. Embellished with psychedelic flowers, the boots were a distillation of the whole collection, giving off that insouciant flower child “I’m with the band” vibe, though rendered more modern with a rectangular heel. This time-traveling pair would be charming worn with a white frock or could skew edgier when matched with a short, colorful skirt. And a coat, of course.

From leather skirts and bomber jackets to chunky chains, pastel lace, and the return of the overall, the looks on Balmain’s S/S 2014 runway might easily have been mistaken for ‘90s Chanel. That parallel applies to the footwear too; booties with block heels and cap toes were paired with every ensemble. Each pair represented a variation on a theme, the shape remaining the same while the materials varied. The body of the boot was black leather (quilted, perforated, or not), black lace or Swiss dot, or white lace, with the toe and heel rendered in black or gold leather.Each of these models were eminently wearable, if not a little yawn-inducing. The one exception was an openwork, cageheeled pair, reminiscent of the YSL sandals that were arguably the most coveted shoe of 2009, but rendered in gold and crystals for a look that is over-the-top glam. Just the thing to sex up the overalls we are all meant to be wearing next season.

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John Galliano head designer Bill Gaytten comes from an architecture background. This was evident in his two earlier collections for the brand, which focused almost exclusively on form and movement. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the result didn’t honor the brand’s creative past. Though Gaytten’s focus may have succeeded in distancing the label from its scandalous namesake, the collection also lacked the frenetic creativity that so defined Galliano. This season, Gaytten dropped overly intellectualized shapes in favor of Manga styling: short, tightly belted fit-and-flare dresses, acid colors, and neoprene. The cartoonish aesthetic extended to the shoes, exaggerated confections Minnie Mouse would kill for. Perched on the highest platforms of Fashion Week, the brightly colored wedges were adorned with shiny rigid three-inch wide bows. As if that weren’t enough, some pairs included a pinwheel-sized flower. Like the rest of the collection, these seemed more aimed at editors than buyers. As decorative objects, they would be gorgeous in the library, bookending Taschen fashion monographs.

Remember when Jean Paul Gaultier’s shows were theatrical, rock n’ roll productions starring atypical models and gender-bending looks? The designer’s S/S 2014 runway hearkened back to those days, which were in the ‘90s naturally. Karlie Kloss came out Voguing and even perennial Gaultier muse Rossy de Palma played a role. The shoes played second fiddle in this show; Gaultier has never been one for statement footwear. There was one covetable pair, however, which really stood out. Best described as a Cruella de Ville-meets-Jackson Pollock paint splatter lace-up bootie, the graphic footwear was both punk and ladylike. Though referencing vintage Doc Martens in terms of print and laces, the boots ditched the overdone lug sole in favor of a sturdy yet slim heel. This painterly pair would partner well with leather or denim, but is best worn as in the show, with lace stockings for contrast and Amy Winehouse hair.

THE OBSESSION ISSUE

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