The exact moment that big bows returned from prissy flourish to fashion’s forefront can be pinpointed: On the afternoon of Sept. 17, 2014, in Milan, Alessandro dell’Acqua, designer for No. 21, sent down the runway satin mules that were twist-tied into exuberant knots. They stole the show. And have featured in his collections ever since.
They also put his high-contemporary label on the map — the style was an immediate retail, street style and critical hit. Since then, there has been a sea change, with a variety of names — from Nicholas Kirkwood to Marni — offering their takes on beauteous bows, the more outlandish and expressive the better. Salvatore Ferragamo’s iconic Varina style, for example, while charming, is much too middle of the road.
Net-a-Porter.com currently stocks a whopping 85 individual styles featuring statement bows. The most over the top and interesting? A subverted ruffle by another Milan designer on the rise: Marco de Vincenzo, who also saw the style put his label on the map last season, and he continues to incorporate the flourish. The message is clear: bows will get you noticed.
With their sugary sweet undertones, bow-bedecked styles are an interesting throwback trend to be taking hold at a time when, more often than not, the hard-edged, future-leaning and aggressively ugly offerings of Demna Gvasalia at Vetements are considered the height of cool. His shoes appropriately reject the simplicity of pretty bows in exchange for tattoo prints and cigarette-lighter heels.
Perhaps for those seeking an antidote to masculine harshness, bows harken back to the happier, headier times of the ’80s boom years and designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Christian Lacroix and Yves Saint Laurent, who never shied away from gigantic bows — the more the merrier — that spelled audacious glamour.
Bows are clearly going to be around for a while. For spring ’17, Alexandre Birman’s popular Clarita sandal was updated with more self-tied bows, while Paul Andrew, Chatelles Paris, and Fausto Puglisi all offered diverse takes on the trend.
New label Khaite, which launched quietly this fall, quickly gained a cult following for designer Katherine Holstein’s curvy suede pumps, designed in collaboration with Manolo Blahnik. With a massive floppy velvet bow at the toe, they look especially fresh paired with jeans. Indeed, unexpected styling and wearing these styles with more utilitarian or everyday pieces is the way forward.
Click through to see more of the best bow styles to shop now.