Fashion Hot Thing: Prada Red Line shoes

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The Independent Culture
WHEN PRADA launched its urban sporty range earlier this year, it was done without fanfare or fuss. A metal- encased look-book filled with pictures of the clothes and shoes simply appeared at the office and, apart from a few "oohs", "aahs" and an "isn't their red stripe label just like those Dymo things we used as kids?", it was filed away as "Prada goes London street- style" without further ado. How regrettably short- sighted.

If I had flicked to the end of the look-book I would have seen and perhaps been able to secure for myself a pair of the most coveted shoes of the moment. They are black leather with moulded rubber soles; the red stripe cuts through the back heel and they come as trainer/shoes with a Velcro strap, trainer/shoes with an elasticated toggle, ankle bootees with an invisible side zip, and below-the-knee or above-the-knee boots. Far too chic and futuristic to be British, they are possibly the perfect day footwear: as comfortable as a trainer, as stylish as a smart shoe, and by Prada as well. Bonus.

Acquisition is ultimately down to foresight. At the first inkling of desire, buy, buy, buy. The fashion designer, Tracey Mulligan, bought her bootees in Milan in early September. A friend of a friend bought a pair in Singapore in late August. I nearly bought some in New York, but I got to the store just after it closed, and they wouldn't let me in. The dozens of fashion people in Paris last week who were wearing them obviously bought theirs on discount in Milan (where it is now impossible to buy a pair in a normal size). In the Paris store Colette the man in the shop actually laughed, and tried to cover it up by pretending to cough, when I questioned the availability of the below-knee boot in my size. (What's so strange about being a size seven?) In London they are sold out of all styles bar the above-the-knee boot; they are expecting more trainers in, but no more bootees or below-knees are going to be made at all. Ever.

Next, the men's toggle trainer beckoned. They were too big, but at last I had my hands on a pair, which turned out to be surprisingly heavy. The inside moulding makes them extremely comfortable; the only problem was that my feet looked like a clown's. As a last resort, I took advice from Eddie Prendergast at Duffer of St George (among other things a rare trainer specialist), who told me that if I bought a pair for pounds 120-pounds 150 now I could sell them on in two years' time for the same amount (such is their collectability). Eddie suggested that I call the Prada stores in Tokyo and Hong Kong, where the recession means business is slow. They didn't have my size.

These are the world-wide lengths some people go to just to get the right shoes, and until now I didn't believe it was possible to want something that much. It also proves how international fashion has become: one of the things we now have in common with the Japanese is our taste in shoes.

Prada, 44-45 Sloane Street, London SW1. All enquiries, 0171-235 0008