There is one accessory that strikes fear in the hearts of models worldwide – the concept shoe. From Naomi Campbell’s infamous fall at the 1993 Vivienne Westwood Anglomania show, to supermodels Abbey Lee Kershaw, Natasha Poly and Sasha Pivovarova all refusing to wear Alexander McQueen’s reptilian armadillo shoes (and therefore promptly being fired), these abstract works of art have always acted as a source of controversy in the fashion world.
Starting with a favourite, and quite possibly the most photographed concept shoe in the world, we have the Alexander McQueen armadillo shoe. Famously worn by Queens of Crazy, Lady Gaga and Daphne Guinness, the armadillo shoe instantaneously became a piece of fashion history, not just for its mad design, but also for its appearance in the Atlantis collection, one of McQueen’s last before his sudden death in 2010.
DSquared has always been known for fun, frivolous and ever so slightly trashy clothes, so this curve ball of a heel was all the more surprising when it made its appearance on the A/W 2010 runway. The Skeleton vertebra was the perfect comic edge to the collection, and has since become one of the most sought after accessories from the Canadian label.
It would appear that if you’ve created an abstract heel then Lady Gaga’s going to wear it, as is the case for Noritaka Tatehana and his other worldly creations. Somewhere between an alien life-form and a cross-dresser’s dream, Tatehana’s heels are famous across the globe for one unique detail – they don’t actually have a heel. Expert knowledge of the body’s natural centre and the use of some serious counterweights make these towering blocks perfectly balanced and, according to HRH Gaga, surprisingly easy to manoeuvre. Sorry Gaga, but I just don’t believe you.
Gabriella Marina Gonzalez
Gabriella Marina Gonzalez is a lesser known but insanely cool designer who has created some of the most beautiful and innovative footwear in the world today. Never one for conformity, her shoes and editorial campaigns are always original, provocative and incredibly seductive. Upon visiting the designer’s blog you are greeted with one simple mantra: “contemplating insanity in its purest form”. With outrageously high block platform heels shaped from rope, wood, resin and metal, this phrase describes Gonzalez to perfection.
If you have an appreciation of Finnish architecture and contemporary design, look no further than Finsk. Inspired by her architect father and interior designer mother, Julia Lundsten attended the London Royal College of Art and shortly after took the world by storm with her footwear line, Finsk. True to her architectural roots, a shoe with mixed textures is her signature, and geometric shapes can be found in every collection. Having collaborated with Ports 1961 and Basso & Brooke, as well as winning the Manolo Blahnik award two years running, Lundsten is showing no signs of slowing down.
Moving from the extreme to the completely un-wearable, we have Christian Louboutin’s eight inch stiletto ballet slipper. Inspired by the Royal Ballet Company, the shoe mogul created a heel that “...would bring women closer to reaching the sky than ever before”. The signature red Louboutin sole is just one feature of this incredible design feat – The slipper itself is entirely encrusted in Swarovski crystals and is moulded from the most expensive Indian silk in the world. Sold to raise money for the ballet company, the shoe now resides at the National Ballet Exhibition, safely locked away from any poor ballerina’s ankles.
French Artist Caroline Sciancalepore was horrified by the torturous heels that women wear in the name of fashion, and decided to make a statement about it, creating a tongue-in-cheek capsule collection called Support for Women. The range featured dangerously high platforms, ironically with no ankle straps - or any form of support for that matter. This ‘statement’ was made for about a week before the creations became immensely popular in the fashion world, being hailed as the ultimate concept shoes.
Known for his utterly bonkers womenswear, Gareth Pugh has become a household name (well... in the fashion world) synonymous with creativity and unusual design. Celebrities world-over are dying to get a piece of his fashion repertoire, and it would seem that the luck fell on Beyonce when the designer gave her this über metallic structured pair from the 2011 Pitti Immagine collection, for her Run the World(Girls) music video. Comparisons to C3PO are welcome.
Karl Lagerfeld, King of putting-his-foot-in-it, took Chanel into the realms of abstract design with the 9mm pistol shoe, featured in the spring 2009 Cruise Collection. Lagerfeld has taken Chanel from strength to strength, removing older preconceptions of stuffy, overly-traditional fashion, and this concept shoe epitomises his alternative reign as Monsieur Coco Chanel.
Alexander McQueen (Mark 2)
And so we go full circle and once again find ourselves at the feet of the late great Alexander McQueen. His alien heel, featured in the S/S10 show along with the armadillo shoe, was deemed so outrageously un-wearable, that it never actually went into manufacture, and the samples used on the catwalk were distributed among the designer’s closest friends and buyers. It wasn’t the design that prevented normal humans from walking in the shoes, but the material, as these towering sky scrapers were in fact made from porcelain. At an estimated retail price of £40,000, this is a pair you would definitely keep firmly in the china cabinet.