Talent Shows: Top Buyers Judge European Collections

What a moment for luxury footwear.

As the European collections concluded in Paris last week, top retailers said the demand for the category is at an all-time high.

“The footwear market continues to grow in importance,” said Erin Cerrato, director of women’s shoes at Holt Renfrew. “We are very optimistic about 2014, and in particular about our new 8,000-sq.-ft. shoe boutique, just launching at our Yorkdale location in Toronto, which is more than four times its former size.”

A number of other major retail moves also are in the works: Next year, Harrods will bow what it’s calling the world’s largest luxury space, dubbed “Shoe Heaven;” The Pedder Group is set to open China’s largest high-end footwear department this month in the new Lane Crawford Shanghai store; and in New York, Bergdorf Goodman is expanding and reimagining its footwear space.

As the department store shoe wars wage on, some high-profile designer moves are sparking additional attention for the footwear category. For many insiders, Nicholas Kirkwood’s deal with LVMH proves that shoes aren’t just hot — they’re a huge growth engine for luxury firms.

“I talked to a lot of potential partners, but I knew LVMH was the right one for the future,” Kirkwood said.

Several other designers also garnered big buzz in Europe, particularly Gianvito Rossi, whose elegant, single-sole looks captured the attention of top global retailers. “It seems like fashion is [shifting] to my point of view,” said the son of Sergio Rossi.

Roger Vivier was another winner this season. “[The label] had so many beautiful shoes. They are always elegant and chic, but fun, too,” said Rebecca Farrar-Hockley, creative and buying director for London-based Kurt Geiger, which oversees the shoe departments in Harrods and Selfridges, among others.

Emerging names also are gaining traction, most notably Paul Andrew and Aquazzura. Jimmy Choo co-founder Tamara Mellon is creating excitement with her new namesake collection, while newcomer Oscar Tiye, designed by Amina Muaddi, is making waves as well.

Here, retailers open up about the brands and styles that will dominate spring ’14.

Christian Lavergne, GMM, Pedder Group, Hong Kong

Top collections: “Gianvito Rossi offers some of the most elegant, sexy and modern single-sole stiletto pumps with signature detail uppers. We love the new flat tuxedo skimmer ballerina. As always, Giuseppe Zanotti presented an edgy and sexy collection across a complete lifestyle offering — from sexy pumps and flat ornate sandals to the most exciting new sneakers. Renè Caovilla continues to expand its footwear collection through new silhouettes such as embroidered espadrilles and sneakers with signature lace and jewel details.”
Name to watch: “Paul Andrew will be the most exciting new designer in our mix next season. He has exquisite, feminine, sophisticated pumps with architectural uppers in beautiful floral graphic prints.”
Key trends: “Feminine and sexy single-sole stiletto pumps and sandals with novelty details, on a variety of heel heights, will rule. Pointy-toe flat skimmers will be a great substitute to the fall male-inspired oxfords or slip-ons. Low-top fashion sneakers will continue and look best as ‘retro bowling’ or skate-inspired silhouettes.”

Elizabeth Kanfer, senior fashion director of accessories, Saks Fifth Avenue, New York
Top collections: Givenchy, Céline, Tabitha Simmons, Chanel, Lanvin
Names to watch: Liam Fahy and Mary Katrantzou
Key trends: Mules, mandals, white, lace-up and sexy sandals, metallics
Spring forecast: “We are going into spring with a positive and optimistic outlook. Fashion and novelty is selling now, and we feel strongly about the styles offered from our key vendor partners.”

Rebecca Farrar-Hockley, creative & buying director, Kurt Geiger, London
Top collections: “Roger Vivier. Bruno [Frisoni] is doing an amazing job and our customers love the shoes. Nicholas Kirkwood’s collection was very fun and feminine, and he used fluorescent colors in an interesting way. Gianvito Rossi has very simple, beautiful silhouettes. His rose gold and chains are the perfect transition for spring.”
Name to watch: “Sophia Webster kept her identity for the third season and found her way back to her graduation butterfly project. It’s all about butterflies for spring.”

Nicholas Mellamphy, VP & buying director, The Room at Hudson’s Bay, Toronto
Top collections: “Gianvito Rossi is so chic and sophisticated. I loved the stretch open-toe bootie. It incorporated a strong, sporty element, while remaining incredibly sexy. I love the diversity at Lanvin, the rubber-toed pumps, the brocade loafers and the heel embellishment. There is something for everyone without sacrificing integrity.”
Names to watch: “In very few seasons, Paul Andrew has become a serious force. The launch of Tamara Mellon’s own collection heralds a major new player. Her shoes continue to champion the woman who couples her power with her femininity. Amina Muaddi and her Oscar Tiye collection show great promise.”
Spring forecast: “I love the diversity this season. Choice seems to be the biggest trend.”

Erin Cerrato, director of women’s footwear, Holt Renfrew, Toronto

Top collections: “Roger Vivier. Bruno Frisoni has reinvented the classic buckle details with new metal treatments. And there was great buzz around [the label’s] virgule heel with the exhibit ‘Virgule, etc.’ in Paris this season. Christian Louboutin was incredibly sexy. His lace-looking silhouettes, laser-cut leathers and ankle-wrap details are nothing short of spectacular. Givenchy was beautiful, and the highlight was the comfort sandals.”
Name to watch: Tamara Mellon
Biggest trends: “Ankle-strap sandals, comfort sandals, pointy-toe flats, gladiators, white, metallics and color-blocking, along with peep-toe booties, mules and fringe.”

Alberto Oliveros, head of buying, Level Dubai

Top collections: “Nicholas Kirkwood’s mix of colors, shapes and materials were fabulous. Edgardo Osorio is proving his extraordinary talent each season. His Aquazzura collection was one of this season’s highlights as it is extraordinarily feminine, sexy, chic and commercial. Gianvito Rossi’s collection is a must-have, and the classics keep on inspiring. His thorn- and flame-inspired styles bring a fun twist to his always-chic and timeless collection. The Brian Atwood puzzle shoe was a handcrafted delight with its mix of python detailing.”
Names to watch: “Paul Andrew really proved his talent this season. His flower-print sandals and embroidery pumps are extremely sophisticated, vibrant, colorful and chic at the same time. Sophia Webster’s collection was again fun, colorful and vibrant. The ‘bug’s life’ world that she created this season is so playful and sexy. We are looking out for Daniele Michetti, who we just added to our assortment as we found his designs very striking for the sexy and confident woman. We’re keen to see the reaction of our customers. Also, MSGM’s tribal sandal is sure to add some color and interest to our space.”
Spring forecast: “It will be a strong season for shoes, and particularly for our region, as color mixed with rich materials transformed the showrooms this season. The collections promise brighter days ahead judging by how playful and bright most designers were in their creations.”

Mira Mikati, owner, Plum, Beirut

Top collections: “Isabel Marant. We loved the studded Pocahontas flats. The studded Birkenstocks in the ‘Isabel way’ are also a must for next season and the beaded moccasins are super-fun, too. Sophia Webster is playful, fun and irresistible with shoes centered around the nature theme. Her collection looked very different from everything else. Oscar Tiye’s suede-wing sandals are to die for.”
Spring forecast: “I’m very optimistic about business next year as I felt that the designers outdid themselves and the results are stunning.”