Clothing labels teaming up with fashion designers for limited-edition lines is old hat. Now, it is new shoes that are in the spotlight - and they are getting extra polish, thanks to some designer liaisons.
Brands such as American clothing retailer Gap have been putting their best foot(wear) forward with help from megawatt fashion stars in recent months.
Good ol' Gap, known for its affordable preppy look, got an injection of ooh-la-la by teaming up with French cult cobbler Pierre Hardy in November last year.
He designed Gap's first shoe collection under its Design Editions line, a move to support new design talents. The second collection from the line hit shops here in July.
Then there's British leather goods brand Mulberry, which roped in British fashion's latest shoe star Jonathan Kelsey this fall season to come up with its debut line of footwear.
The collection of get-tough women's shoes that range from booties to men's-style oxfords arrived in Mulberry stores here last month.
Representatives of both brands say such partnerships really are a match made in heaven.
Says Marka Hansen, president of Gap North America: 'This collaboration allows our customers to access Pierre Hardy's signature style in a way that reflects Gap's easy-to-wear aesthetics.'
Of the Mulberry-Kelsey match, the brand's chief operating officer, Lisa Montague, says in a press release that footwear has always been part of Mulberry's business plan.
'We loved Jonathan's autumn 2007 collection and thought that his energy and design ethos would be an excellent fit for our brand,' she says.
Well-known designers, too, are collaborating with shoe companies.
Brazil-based women's shoe label Melissa, known for its affordable designs made with a special thermoplastic, has a collection out now based on designs by British designer Vivienne Westwood. The brand has also worked with French design sensation Jean Paul Gaultier and cutting-edge British architect Zaha Hadid.
Here's another wet-weather option for fashionistas unimpressed by Phua Chu Kang-style yellow wellingtons.
Brazil-based women's shoe company Melissa, known for its affordable designs made with a special thermoplastic called MelFlex, is getting a leg up the style stakes from British queen of punk, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, 67.
|Shoe brand Melissa recreated Vivienne Westwood's Anglomania line in its trademark thermoplastic.
Launched last month at Ann Siang Road boutique Front Row, the collection consists of plastic versions of kitten heels, Mary Jane pumps and ballet flat originally made from leather as part of Westwood's 2000 collection Summertime.
Only between six and 18 pairs of each style in each colour are available here. The pumps cost $250 while the flats are $220.
Prices for the usual Melissa range are between $80 and $200.
'We feel we share a common bond with Vivienne Westwood and approached her to recreate her Anglomania line,' says Melissa's general manager Paulo Pedo Filho, referring to the designer's youth-oriented line started in 1998.
It is not the first designer tie-up for the shoe brand set up in 1971. Other big names it has worked with include Brazilian fashion designer Alexandre Herchcovitch, French design sensation Jean Paul Gaultier and cutting-edge British architect Zaha Hadid.
As early as the late 1970s, it has been roping in different designers to create these limited-edition lines.
What does Westwood think of her shoes getting a Brazilian edge?
'The technique guarantees perfect shapes without interweaves as we see in clothes fabrics,' she says in a press release in July.
'The most amazing thing about this partnership is being able to create modern products of a high quality at affordable prices.'
The Vivienne Westwood for Melissa collection is available at Front Row at 5 Ann Siang Road. Prices start from $220.
FILLING THE GAP
American clothing giant Gap has had fashionistas in a flutter after collaring some exciting designers for its shirts.
It released a limited-edition line of shirts by rising American labels like Thakoon and Rodarte last year, followed by Phillip Lim and Michael Bastian this year.
|Cult French cobbler Pierre Hardy collaborates with Gap to produce a casual line of platforms, summer clogs and sandals.
Now, it has taken another step in its designer liaisons, this time on the women's shoe scene.
It has teamed up with cult cobbler Pierre Hardy, 52, whose designs, adorned with the likes of feathers, teeth-like straps and hair, bear a whimsical Alice In Wonderland feel.
The result is equally shocking to some.
Gone is the Frenchman's flair for frills. Instead, think basic but beautiful chunky platforms, summer clogs and T-bar sandals.
Unlike most partnerships, the shoes don't even bear his name.
Lindsay Knaak, marketing director of Gap Inc which owns Gap, says: 'Our goal is to offer a collection that is Pierre's interpretation of Gap's casual aesthetic rather than offering a Pierre Hardy diffusion collection.'
What are the challenges of designing for a mass-market label such as Gap?
Meeting the desires of a larger group of people while maintaining my own aesthetics. The advantage is that if one succeeds, the response is massive. This is a very different kind of pleasure from creating for an exclusive market, but is still very real and very effective.
What is the main difference between designing for your own label and for another?
When designing for myself, I have to build a story and define the collection around that story. When I'm working for another brand, whether it's luxurious or not, I have to make myself a part of the brand's history and propose new ideas to make it modern, new and alive.
What sort of woman did you have in mind when designing for Gap?
I really tried to keep in mind what I think are Gap's main characteristics: easy-going, simple both in terms of understanding and wearing, natural and youthful.
Must a good pair of shoes be expensive?
A good pair of shoes is simply one that you desire. They can be cheap or expensive, high heels or flats.
Which essential shoe designs should all women have?
That's the biggest mystery to me. Very often, a woman looking to buy a pair of boots ends up coming home with a pair of sandals. I don't know myself.
The Pierre Hardy for Gap Design Editions collection is available at Gap at 01-18 Wisma Atria and 01-129 VivoCity. Prices range from $149 to $175.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
When British luxury label Mulberry decided to venture into the shoe business, it found that talent is relative, literally.
It just so happened that the cousin of Mulberry's then-creative director Stuart Vevers, who has since moved to Spanish label Loewe, was a certain Jonathan Kelsey.
|Hailed as the "British Louboutin", shoe designer Jonathan Kelsey came up with a collection for luxury label Mulberry.
The Central Saint Martins-trained Kelsey had set up his own label just last year and was promptly hailed as the 'British Louboutin', with women falling head over heels in love with his sexy, slightly punk-inspired kicks.
Mulberry's chief operating officer, Lisa Montague, persuaded him to get on board in October last year.
Kelsey's designs show you can really count on family - he came up with men's style oxfords, biker chic ankle boots and platform pumps in shades of plum, coffee and grey.
'It's always great to work with people you get on with,' says Kelsey, 33.
'I've also worked with (designers) Giles Deacon and Luella, who are both British and my friends. There aren't that many major British labels out there, so it's important to support and promote them, to help each other out.'
Spoken like true family, indeed.
What are the challenges of designing for another label?
Bringing in your own influences while adapting them to the design aesthetic of the people you're collaborating with. It's always a good thing to get inspiration from someone else or another label though. It changes your work in ways you might not have expected. It's a challenge I always welcome.
Which do you prefer - designing for yourself or designing for another?
I don't have a preference. Designing for my own label gives me great creative freedom, but I also enjoy working for another label and adapting the (usual) way I design.
Many fashion and shoe designers have teamed up with mass labels to come up with more affordable lines. What are your thoughts and do you hope to do something similar yourself?
It's a great way to reach out to more customers, but I'm not sure it's something I want to do. My collaboration with Mulberry is much more suited to what I'm interested in. It's an amazing luxury label and I'm very flattered it approached me with the project.
What is your design philosophy when working on your own label?
I often think about my stylish friends and ask myself, 'Would they wear these?' If the answer
is yes, then I'm on the right track. I generally try not to follow trends, to keep things fresh and exciting.
Must a good pair of shoes be expensive?
Expensive shoes are expensive because they're made to the highest standards. The quality should speak for itself when you try them on. The fit, the design, the last (form used to mould the shoe) must all be right and make the wearer feel confident.
The Jonathan Kelsey for Mulberry line is available at 01-01 Hilton Shopping Gallery. Prices range from $1,199 to $2,069.
This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times on Oct 17, 2008.