Shoes marked the spot for many designers at New York Fashion Week.
Following years of “It” bag cycles, designers who showed in New York turned a particular focus to innovations in shoe design. Designers and buyers also mulled how New York accessories can compete with European houses in matters of trend influence and luxury volume.
Kitten heels were the biggest trend call out for shoes this week. The other biggest accessories trend, unrelated to footwear, was the fanny pack — spotted cinching the waists of multiple runway collections.
Labels from both the luxury and emerging middle price point showed kitten heel styles — claiming the heel’s curt, feminine dimensions offer a sense of optimism and mobility for dark socioeconomic times.
“It was time to go a little experimental for me with different styles — I was looking for something fresh. This new kitten heel felt very light. We’re in a moment in the world where everything is so heavy, I just feel like we needed lightness and brightness,” said designer Mari Giudicelli of her spring 2018 designs, which include multiple iterations of the kitten heel, largely priced around $500.
Paul Andrew said of the kitten heel styles — his offered in varying colorways, prints and architectural silhouettes: “I think the kitten heel is taking off as ‘the’ shoe. There is a lot of focus on that at the moment. I think the idea that it’s wearable, it’s the idea you can feel elevated and chic and put together while navigating the street as a modern woman — she really needs to be able to walk.
“It’s about thinking about proportion but in a totally new way. The idea is that everything is such doom and gloom out there, socioeconomically, that I think people want fun and joy in their life, which is why this collection was so bright and colorful.”
Andrew also noted that the kitten heel arrives at a good time for the shoe industry: “I think we are in a moment where shoes are particularly successful in the market over bags — without question it’s a shoe moment.”
The kitten heel was also seen at Tabitha Simmons, Marc Jacobs, Maryam Nassir Zadeh and Rosie Assoulin.
Fanny packs were seen at Marc Jacobs, Fenty Puma by Rihanna, Tory Burch, Lou Dallas and Zimmermann — paired with both sporty and feminine looks, offering a hands-free follow-up to cross-body styles. At Alexander Wang, fanny packs were diagonally slug across the shoulders. Rebecca de Ravenel used her delicately embroidered evening pouches to cinch the waist.
Suzanne Rae, a Brooklyn-based designer with an intermediately priced line of ready-to-wear, shoes and bags, included fanny packs in her spring collection. “I love the quirkiness of them, I just think they are a good look; they’re so easy and hands-free. You can have everything close to you,” she said.
Rae launched her shoe business three seasons ago and it has quickly escalated to comprise 50 percent of her business. Her artful designs are priced from $300 to $500 retail. Seasonal buys at stockists such as Need Supply and Lisa Says Gah often sell out within the first month of hitting shelves. Rae does not overproduce enough stock for reorders — lending a get-it-while-you-can, cult-type appeal to her shoe brand.
“We don’t overproduce much; as a brand, we are definitely aware of not being oversaturated and not having everyone be over it super fast. It is a hazard and I don’t want to be another fashion brand that comes and goes. I want to keep it personal and close to the heart,” Rae said of her business strategy.
Barneys New York fashion director Marina Larroude feels that this approach is how New York designers can get an edge over European luxury houses.
“I think New York right now should just use the market to its advantage instead of creating a massive accessory brand — focus on creating something special and unique. It’s not like when I was 18 and wanted a Louis Vuitton bag. I think girls nowadays want to buy something no one knows. I think brands can take advantage of that trend and really go for it. I think the client now is looking to carry a bag that looks very personal or like a work of art,” she said at The Whitney Museum at an event celebrating Barneys’ partnership with Birkenstock.
Larroude also noted that pricing is a matter of differentiation. “I think if consumers are buying one bag, they want to go for Céline or Saint Laurent. But with price-value now, if brands hit a little lower — people can buy multiples. I don’t think it’s all about investing in a handbag that you carry for two years anymore. Maybe people want a very nice bag, but they also have some novelty. So we see more and more clients buying shoes around the $300 mark. People just want to buy volume and have fun.”
Trending on the shoe and bag floors at Barneys, according to Larroude, is the continued success of sneaker and mule styles. Bags from Barneys-exclusive brands such as Carolina Santo Domingo, Heimat Atlantica and Llora have captured shoppers’ attention.
Bergdorf Goodman senior vice president, women’s fashion director and store presentation Linda Fargo admitted, “It’s true — I don’t think New York gets a lot of airtime from an accessory perspective.” She did note that The Row has trend-setting influence.
For Fargo, New York’s standing in the shadows of Europe is simply a matter of history. “Givenchy, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Gucci — these are houses that have a long history in leather goods. For the U.S. and New York to get a larger piece of the pie, it’s a matter of time. It’s a historical thing. Those companies have a lot of years on them. But we have other things — we have Ray-Ban, we have brands that are very American.”
Said Michael Kors, who has spun an American accessories giant from mid-price handbags, watches and shoes: “I mean honestly, everyone dresses so casually and I think they realize that if you live in your gym clothes — which unfortunately a lot of people do — without the right bag, shoes and glasses, you are kind of lost in the dust. I think more than ever, because people are so casual, they are accessories-obsessed. It all comes down to having the right product.”