The Reaction: Shoes Shine in Europe

Demand for luxury shoes will only continue to get stronger.

That was the message from top retailers who spent the last three weeks combing the high-end collections — on and off the runway — in Paris, Milan and London.

“After what is feeling like a relatively safe season in ready-to-wear across the board and across continents, accessories feel much more important and special for fall ’12,” said Laura Vinroot Poole, owner of Charlotte, N.C.-based Capitol. “Shoes are more powerful and creative than in the past four or five seasons. It’s as if they have awakened from a very long and confused nap.”

The retailer said she increased her budget for accessories “quite a bit” over last year. Her buy runs the gamut from trainers and driving loafers to suede bucks, wedges and sky-high platform heels. “The shoes were just extremely strong all around,” Poole said, adding that Tabitha Simmons, Balenciaga, Lanvin and Rupert Sanderson were among her top picks in Paris.

Once again, emerging designers also made a big splash at Premiere Classe and in showrooms around the city.

Scott Tepper, head of luxury at London-based Kurt Geiger Ltd., named Burak Uyan as a standout. “He is definitely a name to watch for his architectural designs,” he said.

Below, key buyers sound off on the runway winners, top trends and must-have brands from Europe.

Jeffrey Kalinsky, founder of Jeffrey New York & EVP of designer merchandising at Nordstrom
“I loved the shoes at Dries Van Noten and Céline. I always love Nicholas Kirkwood’s shoes and I particularly went gaga for the Erdem collaboration. All these shoes were really unique and made a statement. If I were a woman, I would feel like they are not already in my closet, which would make me want to buy them.”

Elizabeth Kanfer, fashion & co-brand director of accessories at Saks Fifth Avenue
“There are many new footwear trends that will be registering at Saks. We loved the aggressive boots and booties from Fendi, Givenchy and YSL. Menswear slippers, loafers and oxfords were well done at Jimmy Choo. To address pointy-toe and single-sole pumps, Giuseppe Zanotti offered many beautiful styles.”

Ken Downing, SVP & fashion director at Neiman Marcus

“Menswear inspirations and military influences are the major message on every runway. The smoking flat has become the must have for every woman, replacing the ballerina. Chinese brocade, as well as footwear inspired by Chinese culture, is beginning to appear on the catwalks and will become an important story as we move toward the upcoming spring season.”

Blondie Tsang, executive director of Pedder Group
“The best runway shoe was at Balenciaga. Givenchy’s long runway boot was amazing. Everywhere from Céline to Manolo Blahnik, you could see that the pointy last is coming back, both in the single sole and on a platform. Red is an important accent color for this fall, as well as burgundy.

Scott Tepper, head of luxury at Kurt Geiger Ltd.

“Several trends impressed us at Paris Fashion Week. The ankle boot looked very strong in Paris, from the man-tailored, square-toe oxfords with chunky heels at Dries Van Noten and the more feminine “model off duty” styles at Tabitha Simmons to the mock-croc bootie on the white sole at Stella McCartney — and even all the way up to the dramatic corseted, higher-shaft ankle boots at Haider Ackermann. It was great to see the powerful over-the-knee boot return, looking fantastic at Givenchy with the cuff. Sparkle continues to be important, and we loved Lanvin’s sparkle heels and Valentino’s glitter evening shoes.”

Pamela Brady, accessories buyer at Browns

“We will be placing substantial orders with Laurence Dacade and Gianvito Rossi. Laurence makes the most wonderful boots. We love her chunky heels and cool attitude with her placement of buckles and studs. We have seen her brand grow, and customers seem to be getting hooked. Gianvito has always had such a great grasp with sophisticated color palettes and well-thought-out fabrics and shapes. He manages to make high-heels comfortable. We have also had such great success with Pierre Hardy. He really seems to making an impact for Browns.”

Christine Carlton, divisional VP for accessories at Holt Renfrew
“The fall season has been very strong with stand-out collections from Prada and Dolce & Gabbana. The top trends coming from Europe are laceup boots and color and color-blocking, including contrast toe-cap details. The most predominant colors are wines, eggplant and berries, and the newest color to emerge is military green.”

Nicholas Mellamphy, creative director for The Room at Hudson’s Bay Co.
“The single sole continues to come back in a big way. Designers are differentiating their single-sole looks with special skins and extravagant treatments of textures [as seen at Sergio Rossi].”

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