After a pandemic sneaker boom gave way to a post-lockdown party shoe craze, the trend cycle has shifted once again — leaving many buyers looking for the next thing in shoes.
Retailers attending the European collections this month heralded a return to more versatile, day-to-night styles — from boots to ballerinas to Mary Janes.
“The swiftness with which we seem to be moving through shoe trends is unprecedented. We moved from an over-indexed sneaker business to an over-indexed heel business, and now thankfully are back to normal selling of lots of beautiful shoes across the board, which makes buying far more exciting,” said Helen David, chief merchant of luxury at London-based Kurt Geiger.
“We were coming out of COVID[-19] at this time last year, and there was a heightened mood of jubilation and hence a big demand for party shoes,” she added. “However, life has now for the most part returned to normal, and thus the requirements of a normal daily lifestyle have returned. Our customers are looking for shoes to wear to work, dinner with friends, on the weekend — and yes, still to parties — with almost all categories now being represented.”
Here, buyers talk about brands and styles on and off the runway that attracted their attention.
Will Cooper, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s shoes, handbags and accessories at Saks
Top trends: We are excited for the elevated, chic footwear assortment that we are seeing for fall ’23. The lug sole and combat trend that has been key for the last few seasons has shifted to a cleaner, dressier sole for boots and loafers. At almost every showroom in Europe we saw a great offering of ballet flats, sophisticated booties and tall or over-the-knee boots. We also saw a strong offering of pumps and slingbacks, which started making a return this spring and will continue even more so for fall.
Style shift: Coming out of the pandemic, we saw glitzy party shoes take off in spring 2021 with super high, sexy styles, especially sandals, trending in the footwear market. For the spring 2023 season, we saw our clients start gravitating towards cleaner, day-to-night styles as well as shoes for the office, including elevated sandals, pumps and loafers. This fall, the ballet flat will be the new trend in flat footwear, and we’ll see great boots in a variety of heel heights, including stilettos, block heels, kitten heels and everything in between. The incredible assortment of boots and pumps that we saw in Europe will tie back nicely to the great tailoring and pant options we saw for ready-to-wear on the runways. We will definitely see a lot of timeless, investment pieces this fall.
Jodi Kahn, vice president of luxury fashion at Neiman Marcus
Top trends: There was an abundance of strong, very tall boots this season, both structured and slouchy. We loved them worn almost as a pant. There was a great earthen color palette in footwear that looked even richer in suedes. The pointy toe is back, both as a pump and kitten heel. While I don’t think sneakers will ever leave the modern person’s wardrobe, flats are looking fantastic right now. For a more polished alternative to the sneaker, ballet flats, brogues, loafers and classic pointed silhouettes are all important for fall 2023.
Favorite collections: The beautiful stacked heel boots at Chanel will be a must have, and the Miu Miu slingbacks in every color encapsulated the refined mood of the season. Prada’s floral and bow detailed kitten heels looked just as chic in optic white as they did in Prada pink or the most unusual sage green. Bottega Veneta continued to set the gold standard in craftsmanship with spectacular woven boots, and Louboutin dazzled as one of our most trusted shoe partners: studded boots, leopard satin pumps and delicious suede will be on order next season.
Style shift: We see shoe trends mimic what is happening in ready-to-wear, where we currently see more refined sophistication, and a little fatigue from the super high heel, glitz-mania of recent years. Our Neiman Marcus customer is always looking for something special, but ease is more of a priority today. Instead of sparkle or a towering heel, ‘special’ might now mean a rich red color, dramatic detail or unique craftsmanship.
Helen David, chief merchant of luxury at Kurt Geiger
Top trends: Mary Janes and ballerinas. We have seen this in every showroom — with everyone from The Row to Celine to Alaïa championing the ballerina. Mary Janes are in their element at Roger Vivier and Carel. Following the reemergence of boots as a major trend this past fall, this was clearly a category that is being given a lot of attention at a merchandising level from every brand. From booties at The Row and Loewe to shaft boots at Celine and Bottega to over-the-knee boots at Amina and every other showroom, boots will not go missed for fall 2023. Color-wise, it was all about chocolate brown, putty and the obvious black — which has been ubiquitous for the last year. Patent leather was also everywhere, with kitten heels replacing last year’s vertiginous ones.
Favorite collections: Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent, Loewe, The Row and Givenchy. In terms of strength in the shoe category, Loewe and The Row are seriously championing the growth of this category which is now a mainstay part of their collections.
New names: While we didn’t discover “new brands” this season, we have really developed our advanced contemporary mix. These are brands that resonate particularly with our younger customers — Courrèges, Nensi Dojaka, Marine Serre, Coperni and Diesel.
Hollie Harding, buying manager for nonapparel at Browns, London
Top trends: We’re definitely seeing a “back to school” vibe infiltrate footwear this season, with many brands focusing on loafers, lower heeled pumps and flats. This comes as part of a wider move to more understated luxury, with shoppers putting a focus on classic wardrobing and investing in chic and elevated accessories.
Favorite collections: Prada and Miu Miu’s footwear offering this season were standout moments for us. We also loved how Valentino teamed their looks with an easy to wear flat boot.
Style shift: We aren’t particularly surprised by the shift from glitzy party shoes to something more pared back. We’ve seen the high octane trend dominate for the past three seasons, and the new uniform-style footwear that commanded the runways is definitely an antidote to this.