At New York Trend Week, footwear get caught
The state of fashion may seem a bit bleak these days, but New York Fashion Week kicked off its mostly virtual shows with a somewhat surprising – and much-needed – spring at its stride, almost in the truest sense of the word.
Of the first handful of brands to be shown during the week (which officially runs February 18, although many of the usual names appear off the calendar), many – including Ulla Johnson and Zero + Maria Cornejo – offered some sort of wardrobe who suggested easing public life comes in the fall.
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This included the shoes that were heavy on boots – and, surprisingly, also focused on heels – especially given the proliferation of slippers, slipper-like flats, heavy, studded-soled boots, and the sneakers common in our day and age. Johnson’s range includes a mix of statement boots made in contrasting stitching with tassels and a high wooden heel, balletic pumps with soft toes and grosgrain ankle wraps, and a range of hiking styles in collaboration with Diemme.
Both designers were keen to get back to the idea of going out, even if that idea took a few small steps, and getting involved with it with a mix of comfort pieces and statement items like the boots mentioned above.
“I think everyone wants a bit of a boost and I tend to go with my tummy,” Cornejo said in a phone interview after the release of her Fall ’21 collection, which she debuted ahead of New York Fashion Week with a simple look book. “We all want to dream a little.”
The designer’s ready-to-wear garments featured many of her signature, easy-to-wear pieces, with a little more metallic jacquards and velvet. So did the footwear, a small but powerful edit that included knee-length statement ankle boots and ankle boots made of black and caramel-colored vegetable-tanned leather with a belt detail that gave the texture a subtle wrinkled quality, as well as a series of high-heeled sandals (also in simple Colors black, brown and black-red).
The story goes on
“Maybe it’s stupid because we haven’t really sold a lot of shoes in the last year. (But) I think things will get better, ”said Cornejo, who works with a small factory in Italy to produce her shoe collections that focus on vegetable tanned leather and local materials, sticking to their philosophy of sustainable materials. “The whole point of fashion is that we have to inspire and create, dream a little and break out of the doldrums.”
While New York was never the shoe mecca that Milan is, or the luxury brand hub that Paris is, it has lost some of its star names in recent years (such as when Paul Andrew took a hiatus in March 2019 his line to take on a bigger role at Salvatore Ferragamo), while other designers like Chloe Gosselin have decided to show elsewhere or have opted out of fashion weeks entirely in recent seasons.
It may have lost some brand names – and its biggest shoe-heavy brands like Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Coach, and The Row are shown off the immediate calendar – but New York’s designer shoes actually hang on to it. This is thanks to cutting-edge niche designers like Cornejo, who know that customers value well-made shoes and boots that are less about flashing light and more about the aesthetic codes of intelligent women.
There are some notable new designers, like Emily Amelia Inglis, who started her Studio Amelia brand with a collection of strappy sandals that quickly became iconic with the fashion set. When IMG invited her to debut her first show at NYFW, the Australian-based British designer took the opportunity to showcase not only shoes but also the second season of a sustainable ready-to-wear collection that she launched in 2020.
“There are six women behind Studio Amelia, including myself, and we are between Sydney, New York and London. New York is a focal point for us all,” said Inglis, whose brand is one year and one year old. “Our largest market is the US and the customer has been incredibly supportive from day one. So it makes even more sense to present here, ”she added.
Historically, some of the best moments for NYFW footwear have come from collaborations, and this season still follows that tradition. Johnson’s shoe range mentioned earlier involved a collaboration with hiking styles from Diemme. Jason Wu tapped the UK brand Dear Frances for a variety of boots for its Fall ’21, Season 2 collection to focus on his new cheaper strategy. Victor Glemaud worked with the Lagos-based Shekudo brand on a range of inflated clogs that the designers at The RealReal sell. And Anna Sui, New York-based shoe collaborator, partnered with John Fleuvog to create a pair of groovy boots to go with her sixties-inspired collection.
All in all, this New York Fashion Week takes a village. But the fashion – and the shoes – are still there.
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