One of the hottest talking points of the spring fashion season were those wild Armadillo show boots, inspired—in the words of their creator, Alexander McQueen—by a “vision of a ballerina standing en pointe.” The towering 9.4-inch-heeled python-sheathed beasts were said to deter a number of seasoned models—including Sasha Pivovarova and Natasha Poly—from participating in the designer’s show. But for McQueen, who regards footwear as an integral part of his silhouettes, it was a literal case of “if the shoe doesn’t fit.”
This story first appeared in the February 8, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“The girls had to be really confident wearing them,” reasons the designer. “They had to wear the shoes, not the other way round.”
Three factories were enlisted to make the boots, and five prototypes were produced before the final construction was confirmed, while each pair of Armadillos took five days to build.
Here, WWD goes toe-to-toe with McQueen about his career of creating gasp-inducing footwear.
WWD: You have spoken before of a desire to empower women with your clothes. Does the same go for your footwear?
Alexander McQueen: My shoes, from the foundation of the look and the way a woman walks in [them], exude power.
WWD: As someone who often wears trainers, do you consider comfort when designing shoes?
A.M.: Shoes are [about] the final visual for me—comfort is a bonus if it is achievable.
WWD: Did you personally test the Armadillo?
A.M.: No I didn’t, but people on my team did, and they are surprisingly easy to walk in.
WWD: Who actually buys and wears your show shoes?
A.M.: We have lots of collectors and buyers.…People buy them for all sorts of reasons, namely as art pieces or for display.
WWD: Who wears your shoes best?
A.M.: Anyone who knows what to wear them with and how to walk in them.
WWD: Is footwear the ultimate category for exploring your love of architecture?
A.M.: I wouldn’t say it’s the ultimate, as I explore architecture in all the categories I design, but it’s definitely up there.
WWD: Are you committed to designing only skyscraping heels?
A.M.: I have done everything from flat embellished slippers to the highest of heels—it’s whatever works with the season.
WWD: You seem to veer between dominatrix and romantic styles. Which is more you?
A.M.: A combination of the two: the assertive strength of a dominatrix molded alongside fragile beauty.
WWD: Do you have any pet peeves with women’s footwear?
A.M.: Women who wear [sneakers] with a pencil skirt on their way to work.
WWD: Of all your collections, which shoes were the most fun to work on?
A.M.: This last season was the most challenging—they turned out beyond my expectations.
WWD: How do you research shoe styles?
A.M.: That would be telling.