With the sneaker revolution well underway and progressive conversations developing on the roles of gender identity, we are increasingly living in an age of gender-neutral footwear.
That’s making things tricky for anyone in the business of creating sexy, traditionally feminine footwear. But new luxury brand Dahlia Selva, launching today, is doubling down on the idea of femininity — and in its debut campaign, showing that anyone can participate in the aesthetic.
“There has been a certain definition to feminism out there; unfortunately, there is a lot of stereotyping,” said Stephanie Roy-Heckl, CEO and a former wholesale alum at Christian Louboutin and Ralph Lauren. “This [type of] shoe has been tied to sexism, which is not what it’s supposed to be about.”
With her partner (and fellow Ralph Lauren alum), creative director Danilo Giordano, Roy-Heckl is creating a brand that re-examines the definitions of feminine, sexy footwear. “Women should be able to use their sensuality as part of their empowerment,” she said. “There is no definition to sensuality; every woman defines her own sensuality, and you can be whoever you want.”
To illustrate that point, Giordano and Roy-Heckl created a campaign for the first collection of ballet-inspired pumps, sandals and boots (mostly in higher heels) featuring ballet dancer Làszlò Major in drag. “The idea is to remind people not to stereotype, don’t judge.” said Giordano of the campaign, which also features female dancers to highlight the theme.
There’s no mistaking the traditionally feminine features of Giordano’s designs for Dahlia Selva (whose name translates from Italian to “savage flower”). The majority of the collection includes pumps and high heels, though there are some flats and Chelsea boots. The heels are designed with a unique curvature (inspired by a swan’s neck), and Giordano incorporates materials like velvet, lace and ruched suede ruffles (which he calls a “tutu for your feet”). The duo said that they are responding to a void in the market for a new, feminine-focused brand. “[Retailers] are excited to see a new brand that is very feminine. What they’re seeing out there is more of a conceptual, neutral, masculine [look],” said Roy-Heckl.
The duo are also addressing the elephant that has long been in the room for women’s pumps: comfort. “I’m always listening,” said Giordano, who gets fit feedback from Roy-Heckl and others on his team on sample fittings and has added features like additional padding and an adjusted toe box. “It’s always about adjusting; we want them to work in all sizes, for everybody.”
Four of Dahlia Selva’s styles launch on Nordstrom.com today.