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New York is a city full of secrets — dark alleys lead to hot restaurants, the best hairdressers work out of their unlisted apartments and every club has its double super-secret VIP room. The latest on the list is Girls Love Shoes, a treasure trove of vintage pumps, flats and boots, which opened earlier this month. Shoe junkies looking for their latest fix can find the store hidden on the edge of the Lower East Side behind a single door with a barely visible sign and up a flight of stairs. There, two pugs watch over the massive collection of vintage shoes in every imaginable style and hue that owner Zia Ziprin and her sister, Dana, have amassed. Famed costume designer Ann Roth has already sniffed out the place, snapping up 200 pairs of shoes for Angelina Jolie’s new movie, “The Good Shepherd.” Singer Bebel Gilberto, model Verushka (a family friend) and Isabella Rossellini’s daughter, Elettra Wiedemann, are also fans.

“My mother was a model and she opened the Lower East Side’s first vintage shop in the late Sixties,” says Ziprin, looking around at the racks of shoes she’d been frantically organizing for her opening last week. “I like to think that her influence lives on.” Indeed, portraits of her late mother watch over shelves full of Ziprin’s archive collection, which she rents to accessories designers from major labels such as Ralph Lauren and Coach looking for inspiration. Fashion stylists from magazines such as Italian Vogue also mine her collection for their shoots.

Ziprin, who grew up in New York before her family moved to California and into Timothy Leary’s Berkeley house, started her business out of a temporary gallery space in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood. (Sister Dana still lives out West and scours the coast for the shoes — again, through underground contacts). Now, after a year at her Hester Street location selling by private appointment, Ziprin is ready to open to the public. Amongst her collection, which retails from $65 to $250, afficionados can find gems such as unimaginably tall python platforms, a pair of Fifties red-and-yellow plaid stilettos and suede heels kitted out with a gizmo called a “springalator” sole.

As for Ziprin, there are certainly hidden benefits. “I live right upstairs, but the closets in my apartment are so small that I keep the majority of my shoes down here,” she says. “I just come down here after I get dressed and pick out a pair.”

This story first appeared in the September 27, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Girls Love Shoes, 85 Hester Street; Thurs.-Sun., noon-7 p.m., or by appointment by calling 917-250-3268.

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