What Happened to Heel Interest in the Contemporary Footwear Market?

Footwear Heels_OCOdesigns

Fall’14 Footwear is looking too Conservative in my Opinion.

To be completely honest, I am not excited by style offerings in the contemporary footwear women’s market, at least what I’ve seen of Fall 2014. Let me explain, it’s always been about the heel for me. Roger Vivier’s signature Virgule heel, known as the ‘comma’, first created in 1963 and still relevant in 2014. Walter Steiger’s Claw heel continues to be a staple in his collections, refreshed, relevant and exciting today. I can go on with the list. Their innovative signature designs had a magical quality that excited me and contributed to my desire to design footwear. I remember creating my submission portfolio for design school, adding a signature heel treatment to each style in the collection. I may have went overboard but I just didn’t feel the shoe was complete without it. (The proposal got me in so I must have done something right).

Five years ago, the industry’s focus was on the platform of the shoe. High-fashion brands sent innovative platforms down the runway with the contemporary market quickly following suit. Season after season consumers were offered countless options to buy into. As of late, maybe 2012, the focus gradually heightened to the heel. The high point for being the SS13 and F14 shows with a large number of premier brands like Celine, Miu Miu, Lanvin, Balmain, Prada sending innovative heels down the runway. Heels were created out of metal spheres, metal frames, concealed plateau steel, molded leather, plastic molds, covered with mixed media — I was excited to see how it would translate into the contemporary market.

To my disappointment I have yet to see the excitement within the $150-$250 price point, instead style offerings have been on the conservative side. The ankle boot is back looking very much like previous seasons. The pump looks pretty basic with upper covered heel or leather stacked heel, nothing really exciting there. The ballerina is another staple coming back again with the 1-unit rubber sole/heel, or leather sole with stacked heel. Where did all the excitement go? Ok, a few brands have offered up some heel interest; however, only a few.

I understand the relationship between the economic climate and it’s effect on consumer spending. How buyers as a result took a more conservative approach with their seasonal buys. Brands scale back to keep costs down and margins up. From a contemporary footwear consumer standpoint my purchasing style has evolved due to the economic climate as well. Instead of making flighty emotional purchases based on the look of the shoe + sale price, I put my emotions in-check and further examine quality/fit, and then look for innovation in details that push the boundary of what that style represents. In the end I pay more for what I consider an investment that represents my unique style, the shoe transcends being just a fashion purchase to a statement of my style. From a contemporary footwear designer standpoint it is frustrating to have styles I create with heel treatments not make the cut, or get edited to be “safer” for fear the customer will not understand it. This is a thought as a consumer and designer I have yet to understand.

Bottom-line: consumers are looking to state their individuality through their style; let’s not be afraid to give the heel signature treatment. Contemporary brands should attempt exploring and creating their signature, a great place for this is the heel. The approach can be exaggerated, subtle, unconventional, minimal, the list goes on, as illustrated by the references pinned to my Pinterest board [Footwear_F14/W15_Heels]. In my (humble) opinion what is most important is keeping the signature closely aligned with the DNA of the Brand. This further creates the brand image while bringing the excitement back. Yes, cost is always a factor, however this can be done in a cleaver, cost-effective style that will payoff in the long run.

Just my thoughts, thank you for listening.
I could be wrong, love to hear your thoughts.

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