It's a shoe thing

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Looking forward 029, It's a shoe thing

Ultimately, consistently showing up for ourselves lays the foundation for our life’s purpose: showing up for others. - Shelly Tygielski


Things must be getting better (in life, in the world) because I want new shoes.

That’s what I realised last week before announcing this fact brightly to a couple of friends when we were on our way to dinner last Saturday. The car erupted into joyous laughter. Amongst my mates, I am known as the Queen of Shoes. Or at least I used to be. My self-declared passion, which started in my twenties, didn't slow down even after I left the red-soled empire where I used to work.

However, my shoe desires (or should I call them needs?) changed quite a bit last year, as did many other things.

First, it manifested by a very intense desire for faux-shearling slippers. Then new sneakers. I became mildly obsessed with the New Balance 327 model (a brand I’d never cast a glance towards before). Essentially I was expanding my footwear collection in line with my activities. You may have felt like me. When I walked out of the house, I wanted it to be a comfy, heightened experience of sorts, both in my stride and my style. Let it be said, some of my prior sneaker purchases were a bit below par in the former.

This year though, I want boots! Isabel Marant boots to be precise. And perhaps some rubber soled boots, for the wetter days. There’s plenty on my wishlist, as you can imagine.

But you know what that means? I think it means I want to go out!

Not just have a good walk, I want to be out, be around, be seen.

You may think, hey, weren’t you out and about this summer? I was, ish. While on holiday, in a rare minimalist move for me, I only brought four pairs of shoes including a pair of sneakers for playing tennis. Oh dear, maybe I am changing, I thought to myself.

Fashion, and footwear in particular, has always been a means of self-expression for me. Recently, as I was sharing with a fellow coaching student during a session, my relocation to Geneva coupled with the pandemic had the potential to affect both my dress sense and subsequently, my purchases.

My city of origin is posh. Actually,let’s call it what it is: rich. But it’s also the birthplace of Protestantism. It’s restrained, its style is unadorned, and it is very quiet. I, though an introvert, have a bold and colorful side to my character that may have felt the need to go into hiding during the pandemic times. Or perhaps it just needed to exist behind closed doors, most of the time in my closet. The question I am now asking myself is: does it need to be?


My move to London emboldened me with my fashion choices, although I never dressed in a way that my mother would approve of. Not quite. Chic wasn't ever the look I went for. I admire it in many friends and acquaintances who end up in the pages of magazines regularly.

Instead, ever since my twenties, my fashion style has been influenced by mood, trends, comfort, sensuality, naivety, boldness, playfulness and often confusion as to what I should be wearing.

Over the years, I was able to let loose and express multiple facets of my personality which I believe would have stayed closeted had I remained at home in Geneva.

My move to East London in particular accelerated my sense that expressing myself through fashion was not just possible but allowed, even welcomed. To this day, for me, London is where fashion meets freedom. It’s a marvellous mix of the 'j'men foutisme' - or devil may care of the French - and eccentricity, liberally applied to self-expression via our appearance.

If anything, I felt too tame when I walked the streets of Shoreditch or Hackney. I loved seeing young creatives sporting the weirdest looks. I have this memory of a girl waiting next to me at the bus stop wearing oversized 80's reading glasses (think Working Girl), a mishmash of plaid and coloured tights, a slouchy blazer on top and a hair colour I love to describe as ‘My Little Pony’ inspired. Think of the current Gucci vibe but sourced in a vintage shop. I was a little jealous to be fair. Of the hair I mean.

Come to think of it, I believe that I never craved having a grand wedding because I was lucky to be regularly invited to amazing events, including a few black-tie occasions, which meant I have been able to wear fabulous outfits. Gowns that made me feel like I belonged in another world, or another life. That doesn't mean I don't want to get married, not at all: there’s just no pressure to satisfy a need to wear a couture gown.

Of course, 99 percent of the time I was working at said events, but the fabulous feeling still remained. I sometimes take the keepsakes out of their boxes: my bejewelled red soled heels are lucky to have graced many a dance floor. Lucky me! They were an expression of yet another facet of my personality.


On that note, the other week I saw a wonderful sighting. Almost like I had spotted a rare bird. There, in front of me, appeared a gracious woman in splendid stilettos. She was crossing the road in front of my taxi. It was one of these warm autumn days and she was wearing a mid-length dress and slick towering heels, 10cm, maybe 11cm.

She was truly a sight to behold. To say I was surprised is mild. Had I not been in a car, she would have stopped me in my fancy sneaker tracks. I haven’t seen anyone that elevated in a pair of heels for a couple of years. But then again, I've barely left Geneva for a couple of years. She, too, reminded me of another time. And a specific city. There was a whiff of Paris about her.

I moved on from the stiletto early on in my tenure at Louboutin. I mean God/the universe may have given me that dream job, but well before that I was also graced with lax ankles. Talk about a sense of humor! I remember the time when I even twisted my ankle, with Christian by my side, during London Fashion Week while going up the stairs to attend a fashion show. The embarrassment.

There is something about the practicality of a flat shoe that I have always found to be superior to any type of heel, aside maybe from my friend the kitten heel. Men, back me up here, I don’t see you trying to get yourself on stilts: if heels were so amazing, you’d have jumped on the bandwagon long ago. And don’t quote Louis the XIV...

That said, I was pretty annoyed to witness a Bond girl, stranded on a dangerous island, going from dinghy to walking around big rocks in 10cm Mary Jane pumps. The latest James Bond was great crack, I really loved it and it was good to see how much the characters have moved on since the early days of the franchise. Perhaps it’s time their wardrobes should reflect that. No woman I have ever met would have kept those heels on. I mean...

This topic got me curious to find out more about what other women are buying right now so I asked my friend Lupe Puerta, founder of the Floorr - a new online platform with wardrobe solutions curated by the shop floor community. Having just returned from the fashion weeks (NY, Milan, Paris, London), she kindly obliged me.

‘A lot of people are shopping from their own wardrobe’, she said. Duh, that’s totally what I am doing.

She added: ‘There’s also a lot of occasion dressing at the moment, because people are going to weddings right, left and centre. And people are also celebrating their 30+1 or 40+1 birthdays.

As for me, I’m slowly upgrading into heels. I started with kitten heels and am slowly climbing up. It felt good to get dressed again going to the shows. But what I’m looking for is a classic pair of boots with mid heels because, well, comfort is still a big thing right now. We’re spending a lot of time out and about now, and I just want to walk, basically.’

Lupe reassured me, I’m far from being the only person favouring lower options. Functional shoes are still going strong.

Meanwhile, my ex-employer was well aware of my tastes. Indeed, I felt very seen this summer when old friends messaged me to announce that a shoe had been named after me in the 2021 Spring/Summer collection. Dame Anne, as they are named, are not only a flat shoe: they also feature a rubber sole, you see. Quite right. No slipping around for me. However, they also had plenty of glamour on top of their practicality: with an inner sole of alligator-embossed leather, the satin upper straps are adorned with multi-color Swarovski crystals and finished with a grosgrain trim. The inspiration is right on. I'm still waiting to get my pair FYI.

So while I still have a wall of shoes (or two) in my apartment, which I view as some form of legacy, for whom that is unclear, what’s striking is my new motto: long live high heels, as long as they’re gracing someone else’s feet, not mine.

Here’s to shopping from our own wardrobes. Now I’ve gone and reminisced, I’m mentally reviewing the opportunities for me to put sparkly (flat) pumps back on my feet. I feel a theme party coming on.