Here’s the truth: I am not really a shoe person. I know, I know, this statement is ironic coming from a girl who worked on the “Shoe Issue” of a fashion publication (not to mention my part time job in high school selling Crocs and Ugg knockoffs in Ottawa, but please, don’t remind me about that). It’s not to say that I don’t like or appreciate shoes, but being a woman with size 12 feet, I’ve been forced to follow the “take what I can find” approach, which more often than not consists of wearing clunky black grandma shoes. Possibly out of sheer cruelty, my editor decided to punish me by giving me a book to review filled with sumptuous images of glorious heels I’ll never be able to find in my size.
There are certain names that even the tamest of shoe lovers are familiar with: Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, the inimitable Christian Louboutin. This book does not look at these designers. Rather, New Shoes is about, well, just that – the new guys, the up-and-coming designers, those who have worked for or collaborated with more famous names but have not just yet hit the same level of celebrity. New Shoes focuses on twenty five of these yet-to-be-superstar designers, each one with their own unique style and background. Every designer is dedicated ten pages, beginning with an introduction. In it, an overview of their body of work is intertwined with quotes about the artist’s vision, often containing some insightful if occasionally repetitive thoughts (read: a lot of the designers compare creating shoes to architecture).
That being said, the book ultimately focuses on the shoes themselves. Detailed, glossy pictures make up the majority of the book, alternating between close-ups of the shoes and full out photo shoots of skinny models wearing mini dresses and neon coloured tights to properly show off their kicks. While New Shoes could easily stop at letting us “ooh” and “aah” over the pretty pictures, the editors make an effort to point out the difficulty of crafting their unique designs, and the photos are accompanied by descriptions of the subtler minutiae of each shoe. Details like the use of whip stitching or hardwood heels are pointed out, made usable by the inclusion of a glossary at the back. While the book is far from being a comprehensive guide to all things footwear, it does give an accurate perspective of the qualities that make each shoe unique and the difficulties behind designing them. As a bonus, many of the designers include preliminary sketches to give the reader a sense of the creative process.
Admittedly, some of the designers do stick out more than others. Bénoît Méléard, a French designer who has worked for Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan, takes a more conceptual approach to his designs, and his influence has since been seen in other designers’ recent runway collections. Other standouts include menswear designer Marco Censi, whose work has been described as “footwear for the modern-day dandy,” and Julia Lundsten, whose shoes are probably the architecture-iest of the bunch.
This picture heavy book is definitely more show than tell, but it provides an accurate depiction of the twenty five designers’ artistic visions and actual creative output. If nothing else, it’s definitely a good primer for those looking to expand their shoe vocabulary.
by Sue Huey and Rebecca Proctor. Laurence King Publishers, 2007
reviewed by Anna Fitzpatrick