A trip through Jenny Walton’s Instagram feed is like taking a trip back in time. Yes, there is plenty of true-blue vintage fashion that the artist, designer and influencer shows off (mixed in with a lot of Prada, new and old). But it’s the environmental perspective that makes Walton’s point of view so unique, finding period architectural finishes on a particular street corner, from Milan to Manhattan, or spotting a captivating color palette in a pile of garbage (yes, really).
Walton has now taken that singular perspective to a new capsule collection with Pretty Ballerinas, in a series of ballet flats that are both inspired by vintage styles and the designer’s proclivity for finding color just about anywhere.
In fact, Walton hit the pavement once again while researching and creating the collection.
“During quarantine, because I haven’t traveled at all in the past year, I feel like my escape has been taking really long walks through the city,” said Walton, who studied fashion design at the Parsons School of Design and whose illustrations and sketches have become well known in the fashion world. “I think ballerina flats are a great way — especially now that it’s getting warmer — to wear something that is super comfortable but also be a little bit more feminine. I have some great sneakers that I love and wear but sometimes you want to have something a little bit easier. And I feel like I always get blisters when I wear sandals and try to walk, especially between my big toe. So for me, it’s even more comfortable than flip flop. It’s something I’ve been wearing a lot around the city.”
Walton’s pedestrian ventures included a trip up to the Pretty Ballerinas boutique in Manhattan’s Upper East Side to try on the brand’s existing styles, including the Marilyn, which she reinterpreted in both a patent leather with a daisy motif cutout and a coated fabric with daisies done in Swarovski crystals. Both are replicas of the floral design that can be found in Walton’s own line of delicate, vintage-inspired jewelry.
The designer also looked to Etsy for vintage inspiration on the Zoey, a square-toed leather flat with a collapsible shape that comes in its own carrying case, based off of a 1950s style she found.
“I did so much research. I looked at Audrey Hepburn’s ballet flats, when they were sold at auction, and I looked all over Etsy – which is my favorite thing to do anyway,” said Walton.
A longtime vegetarian herself, Walton debated how to approach her materials selections. “It’s a juggling act. You want to be sustainable, but on the other hand when you look at a lot of vegan shoes it’s just plastic, which can be even worse than leather in some ways,” she said. “So that was tricky and I went back and forth on it.” In the end, Walton opted to make at least half of the collection in a fabric, focusing on a coated cotton option to keep the shoes sturdy.
The collaboration comes at a time when the ballet flat is on the upswing. After years of standing in the shadow of the sneaker as the casual shoe of choice for many women, pandemic-forced lifestyle shifts have left an opportunity for the simple indoor-outdoor shoe, including slippers, slides and ballet flats.