The debate on heels: are they still a must or not?

The pandemic upset footwear consumption and transformed the most comfortable models (starting from sandals and slippers) into objects of desire, especially online. As a consequence, some operators are stating that there is no longer space for heels. But some say they are sure there is.

There are two factions and both are well represented. In the middle, we have heels, that have always been an obsession when talking about shoes and have now become an issue due to the pandemic. The new (pandemic) dimension of daily life is giving meaning to ways of consumption looking for new codes of elegance. Codes that, on one hand, make the central role of sneakers in footwear stronger (even if this is unnecessary, in our opinion). On the other hand, they are more related with a (fashionable) idea of comfort that, as we could see at the recent digital catwalks of Milano Moda Donna (18th – 24thFebruary 2021), is having a “cocoon effect”. An obvious question comes to mind: what is the future of high and very high heels? Some answers come from research and analysis (as you can read here). Others, directly from the market.

Some people say no

Jennifer Cuvillier is the creative design director at Le Bon Marché (LVMH) in Paris. Stylistic supremacy of sports shoes is declared in one of her statements: “Nowadays, sneakers are part of a classic wardrobe. They are a bit like jeans: suitable for all generations and all styles”. These might seem words taken from 2018 or 2019. Instead, they were spoken few weeks ago and they show how the pandemic further consolidated the ground of this kind of shoes in the market. So much, that a considerable number of international fashion magazines printed titles that we could summarize like this: “Luxury sneakers are the new stilettos”.

Pierre Hardy, shoe designer at Hermès makes this concept stronger, in social and generational terms: “The greatest advantage of sneakers is that they make those who wear them look younger. You may wear the most traditional clothing, like fur, and pair it with training shoes: you are going to look younger by 10/15 years. This is unconscious, but it is their strength”.

All right: sneakers are cool, sneakers are fashionable, sneakers are comfortable. Sandra Choi, creative director at Jimmy Choo gets to the point of stating that she does not believe that “only heels are glamourous. Lately, my shoes collection is totally made up of training shoes”. To Business of Fashion, Stephanie Clairet from Printemps Paris confirms that “brands like Louboutin, Sergio Rossi and Stuart Weitzman noticed a decrease in the sale of elegant shoes. They had to adapt to the market and develop sneakers and low heel shoes”. Finally (how strange…), in Paris, again, Galeries Lafayette (as we read in BoF) has started, as it seems, a further project of enlargement of their sneaker department.

Some say (absolutely) yes

For example, Edgardo Osorio, co-founder and creative director at Aquazzura. Although their brand offers various shoe models, high heels are the most sold. “In fashion, we have two directions: what you need and what makes you dream. We take care, especially in this moment, of what makes you dream and makes you happy”.

Even Jimmy Choo himself, meaning the designer who left the brand of the same name some time ago, says: “High-heeled shoes will never die”, while presenting to BoF his new training project, the JCA London Academy of Fashion. From Italy, we get opinions in favour of high-end multibrand retail. For example,

Rossella Galiano in Naples  (owner of 8 boutiques), explains that “in these months we had ongoing articles that never stopped being sold, like Rockstud by Valentino and Opyum by Saint Laurent”. In other words, models which are recognised just by their heels (made on the basis of the brand’s logo).

Uberta Zambeletti, from the Wait and See boutique of Milan, echoes her: “I was surprised by the fact that high-heeled shoes kept on being sold, showing the wish of women to continue feeling feminine in spite of the confinement”.

Giorgio Innocenti and Mario Dice, respectively CEO and designer of the relaunched and iconic brand Luciano Padovan, close the circle: “From the market, we learned that accessories, and in particular heels, are part of daily life. On condition that they have character. No need for an opportunity to use them. These months of lockdown changed the habits, but the wish to go back on heels is still there”.

Moral of the debate

At the end of the day, it is not our responsibility to decide who is right and who is wrong. We leave the choice to you.