British parents are fuming on social media over an American brand that produces stilettos for babies. But the label’s owner thinks the fuss is all rubbish.
“This isn’t the first time that the U.K. has had a problem — they turn it into something it’s not; it’s a photo prop,” Pee Wee Pumps owner Michele Holbrook shared with Footwear News today.
Holbrook thinks the humor behind her line of soft cotton slippers is just lost in translation.
Last week, Scotland’s Daily Record published a story on outraged mothers that have taken offense, citing biting comments from Facebook’s Let Clothes Be Clothes page.
“Apart from the tremendously worrying sexualisation of children such products contribute to, I don’t even want to know the effects these shoes would have on small, developing feet,” a Facebook user wrote on Let Clothes Be Clothes page. “Absolutely beyond a joke .. Who the hell actually buys these monstrosities??? Sickos sexualising babies & children!!!” added another.
The UK’s Daily Mail and Metro papers, as well as some American outlets, have previously highlighted some of the outrage expressed on social media.
Holbrook’s slippers feature an adjustable Velcro strap; the heel is filled with cotton and is collapsible with pressure and poses “no endangerment” for the infant, she said.
“They look at it like you’re sexualizing babies,” she explained. “That’s their opinion if they want to take it, but they are intended as a photo prop, and mothers want to use it as a fashion accessory.”
The shoes are not made for walking and sizes only go up to six months, “when babies start to crawl,” Holbrook added.
Every once in a while, Holbrook will see a spike in traffic to her website after a torrent of comment from social media platforms that stir an unsavory subtext behind the design. She presents the footwear in very tame boudoir-like pictorials — flapper costumes, pearls, ruffles, headbands; all very girly.
“They did it last May and it went out of control,” Holbrook said of the last wave of wrath she received. “To say something about that is a bit harsh — it’s like putting a baby into a cute romper or tutu — it’s an accessory and there’s no more to it.”
Still, the negative attention isn’t bad for business, and it also yields new fans and customers who embrace the humor.
“There’s no such thing as bad publicity; if it brings attention, it’ll help you,” she said, “especially when a celebrity picks it up,” Holbrook explained.
In fact, Ice T’s wife Coco Austin recently shared photos of their newborn daughter (named Chanel) wearing Pee Wee pumps. “It was on E! Online, so that definitely helps with sales and traffic,” she said. “Tamara Judge, from ‘Real Housewives,’ I sent them to her for her granddaughter.”
Holbrook launched the line in 2014 after two years of development, she said. Her line ranges from $14.99 to $24.99 on Peeweepumps.com, and styles include animal print Mary Jane-like pumps with soft, bendable heels.
For fall, Holbrook is keen on launching a Christian Louboutin-style pump.
“We have done a red bottom shoe, but I’m not sure where to go with that,” she explained. “We are designing a special box for that.”