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Gold Standard

Spring footwear steps out with precious metals and dazzling gemstones. Pamela Dittmer McKuen takes a walk with the trend.

By PAMELA DITTMER MCKUEN
  To find out where shoe designs are headed, peer into your jewelry box. This spring, footwear steps out donned with precious metals and dazzling gemstones.
    The trend is glitz, day and night, and it’s inspired by a convergence of cultures, says Amy Tara Koch, trend reporter for NBC-Chicago and national style expert for iVillage.com.
    “A lot of it started with hip-hop and the singers talking about bringing on the bling,” Koch says. “‘Sex and the City’ was about the big bag and the great shoe, and it gave women the power to be noticed. On the runways, we saw Tom Ford do a lot of basic black with splashes of gold and rhinestones.”
    And the paparazzi have had their impact, says Anne Crays, vice president of merchandising and fashion forecasting at Shoebuy.com.
  
“There is so much entertainment press these days, and that is bound to affect what people wear, whether they are subconsciously aware of it or not,” Crays says.
    Taryn Rose, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon turned shoe designer, believes that accessories have become more important than apparel, and for practical reasons.
    “There’s a size issue,” Rose says. “A lot of women can find glamorous accessories where they may not be able to find glamorous clothes that fit, whether they are thin or fat or average.”
    A woman who works in a conservative environment might wear Taryn Rose’s “Cailyn,” a peep-toe pump in wide gunmetal stripes ($525). Another woman may find a comfortable sparkle in Tory Burch’s gold “Carly Wedge” with oversized logo medallion ($275).
    “Glitziness is also whimsy,” says Koch. “It’s not taking yourself so seriously. People who are wearing this trend are using fashion to have fun.”
    Designer interpretations range from sedate to outrageous. Jessica Simpson (yes, that Jessica Simpson) offers an array of ballet flats in prints, metals and pastels (about $60).
    Carlos Santana (yes, that Carlos Santana) leans toward the dramatic—towering spikes, printed fabrics, pearl finishes, patents and stripes (about $100).
    “This is art for your foot,” says Crays.
    Johnathan Kayne’s “Austria” sandal features 4-inch clear plastic heels and large Swarovski crystals along the straps ($150).
    “We’re also seeing a lot of color,” says Crays. “Color can be versatile, which is nice, instead of everyone depending on black all the time.”
    At Taryn Rose, metallics come in myriad variations of hue and heel height. “Onyx,” for example, is a tri-tone slide in bronze, gold and pearl ($425). “Banda” is a ballet flat done up in a shimmery cabbage-rose print ($425).
    “Metallics go well with color,” says Rose. “A metallic that is soft and pearly, not bright and garish, or that has an interesting texture becomes such a neutral.”
    She also likes silver-and-gold combos, especially for traveling, because one pair of shoes accessorizes multiple outfits.
    Rose was inspired to switch careers after seeing many patients with serious health problems caused by fashion footwear, along with her own aching feet after working 14-hour days in three-inch heels. Taryn Rose shoes are made on lasts that are wider in the forefront and narrower in the heel, the way a woman’s foot is shaped. They are designed with a flexible forefront for better traction, shock-absorbent cushioning and soft leather and fabrics.
    The Los Angeles-based Rose also designs men’s shoes and jewelry and plans to open a Michigan Avenue boutique this year.
    “The Chicago woman is very much my type of customer,” Rose says. “She’s busy. She’s got a fabulous life, but she’s got to think of function, as well.”
    Kitty Stettner of Del Ray Beach, Fla., is another designer who went into business to fill a wardrobe void. A self-described “shoe nut,” she wore heels to the office. When she got home, her choices were slim.
    “I wanted something cute that wasn’t a house slipper,” Stettner says. “I wanted it to look great with jeans or sweats or something I could dress up a little. I found that if I got comfort, I also got orthopedic.”
    Stettner launched Kiki*c, a collection of sassy mules and clogs. Each design begins with her signature black polyurethane wedge sole with 2 ½-inch kitten heel. Then the adornments begin: For spring, it’s rhinestones, ribbons, studs, embroidery and feathers. “NaNa” is a faux Persian lamb clog with silver crystal clasp. Best-seller “Smidge” is a black-and-white striped mule with lion’s head medallion circled with rhinestones (about $100 at www.kikic.com).

Published: February 07, 2008
Issue: February 08 Money Issue