Céline has a knack for conceiving ‘the It shoe’ – be it the practically cult wooden wedges of Spring/Summer ’11, or the ubiquitous chunky platforms of SS12.
The French label, which started out as a children’s footware producer, has yet again drawn attention to what’s embellishing our feet.
The shoes from the label’s SS15 show, which have already raised more than a few surgeon-lifted eyebrows, has sparked a new debate: comfortable or torturous, grotesque or flattering? Where should the fashionistas draw the line?
If Facebook comments are any indication, there seems to be a pattern in emerging opinions:
What’s all the fuss about? The shoes have a face only Phoebe Philo could love: they look as though they might feel like a scurry across a desert of Lego blocks rather than a Carrie Bradshaw-style Fifth Avenue graceful stroll.
I’ve talked to a few of my friends at various glossy mags to find out if the professionals agree with us mortals.
“I quite like how these ugly shoes find their way into mainstream and become trends,” says Tom whose job at Elle Poland involves sorting through hundreds upon hundreds of pairs of shoes at the magazine’s closet. “It’s like fashion’s biggest offender, acquitted by Céline,” he adds.
We’re both equally surprised to see shoes like this become high-street trends. “It’s basically the good old jiffy heel, sexed up only just a little. There’s a trend of upmarket designers taking a well-known, atrocious design and turning it on its head. These always sell like hot cakes. Birkenstocks are the best examples.”
The German sandal makes the perfect case study for this quirky trend cycle. Claire of Love magazine, tells me how they got their five minutes of fame: “What happened before the designers got their hands on the sandals doesn’t matter. They do have an interesting history, being created by a doctor in the late 1890s. They’re meant to have some sort of medicinal properties.”
But none of this matters to the fashion crowd – it’s only when major designer labels started putting together catwalk looks with the chunky sandals that people started to notice their other qualities.
“When fashion houses like Givenchy, Céline and Lanvin showed their own Birkie-inspired designs, it became clear that not only were sandals okay to wear at home, but you could actually proudly sport them on the street, and feel smug in front of the uninformed people who’d give you scornful glances,” Claire continues.
But then even the fashion-oblivious had no choice but to notice the ugliest sandals ever. “All the trend-setters would wear them – the Olsen twins and supermodels like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley or Magdalena Frackowiak.”
Then came the hipsters, the Japanese schoolgirls and Miuccia Prada, followed by bloggers, magazine editors, the rest of the models, celebrities and finally high-street shops.
It’s pure metamorphosis – a particularly fat caterpillar of a shoe turns into a mainstream trend. Everyone’s wearing their Birkenstocks now. Is the same about to happen to Céline’s upmarket hospital shoe covers?
Very likely. Claire’s on the fence on the looks of what’s been nicknamed ‘the jiffy heel’. “It looks like the fashion faux pas of the good old jiffy, but combined with a block-heeled pump. The elongated toe is elastic and they look incredibly awkward.”
She has, however, no doubts about the comfort of wearing Céline’s new invention: “Do trust me, they’re a delight to walk in. There’s been a strong trend towards footwear that doesn’t actually massacre your feet.”
Various retailers are already offering knock-offs – for about a few hundred pounds a pair.
I forecast we’re only a couple of seasons away from these atrocities pounding the pavements of London, before H&M catches on and we’ll witness yet another trend circulating round the masses. A short-lived one, hopefully.
Illustration by Weronika Kuc