High and mighty: the truth about shoe sales

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

As Tamara Mellon quits Jimmy Choo, Harriet Walker wonders whether women will kick their addiction to expensive heels

Her tenure took in economic collapse but the 15 years Tamara Mellon spent at the helm of Jimmy Choo also saw a change of consumer mindset, and a boom in sales and following, that means even the most ordinary wardrobe now resembles that of Imelda Marcos.

The footwear mega-brand, which announced Mellon's departure on Sunday, has, along with Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik, become a household name. And the cult of footwear just keeps growing with the increasing Sex-and-the-City-fication of our lifestyle.

It isn't just the high-end labels that have done well from it. A pair of Choos can cost more than £1,000 but there are countless colourful and crazy designs across the board, with styles costing upwards of £60 or £70 on the high street.

There are several theories for the emergence of our footwear fetish: you don't need to diet to buy shoes; they'll fit regardless of water retention; they feel like a treat. But one thing is unarguable: the fact that normal people – not just the fashionable élite – would now countenance spending upwards of £200 for things that get dragged along the floor all day is telling of a cultural acceptance of what might at first seem like sartorial excess.

And don't assume that people are spending all this money on sensible brogues or a nice pair of winklepickers – the shoes that Mellon and her ilk have made us fall in love with are frothy and fantastical creations, bedecked with ribbons, beads, curlicues and furbelows. They are tall, pointy, platformed and uncomfortable. We teeter, stagger and clutch at handrails – but still we buy. On the face of it, it's the biggest waste of money known to man, or rather, woman.

Is it further proof of the evolution of aspiration? High heels have become the Habsburg chin de nos jours; they're a fashion statement, of course, but they're also a social one. A woman who wears heels so opulent and extravagantly high is a woman who doesn't need to run for the bus because (ideally) she has a chauffeur. Victoria Beckham, who was recently seen shopping with her nine-week-old daughter in seven-inch Louboutins, hasn't been seen in a pair of flats since 1998.

High heels have always had a certain allure – they make legs look longer and bottoms seem perkier. But they're now almost ubiquitous in a landscape where celebrities are papped on the way to the supermarket. For those in the limelight, being seen in flats is like being seen without make-up. And it perpetuates the myth for the rest of us that it is possible to exist at a 45-degree angle. We watched Carrie Bradshaw run through Manhattan in her Choos and we assumed we could do the same – but we don't see the part where she takes them off for five minutes and weeps.

There seems no decline in popularity: Jimmy Choo this summer released an "Icons" collection featuring some of the most popular styles from its 15-year history; Louboutin is currently wrangling in the courts for the lucrative copyright of his signature scarlet soles. There was a brief whisper of a return to flats in the autumn of 2008, when designers such as Alexander McQueen proposed pumps on their catwalk (a nod to the austerity of the early credit crunch, perhaps), but this trend was all but seen off by ever-more outré styles and vertiginous designs.

Department store Selfridges opened its Shoe Galleries last year, taking the prize for the largest footwear department in the world. Since then, it has sold more than 7,000 pairs of shoes in 5,000 styles per week. Our appetite is insatiable: the average woman owns 19 pairs of shoes, Jennifer Lopez has more than 300 and novelist Danielle Steele boasts 6,000. Even Marcos had only 1,060. Tamara Mellon takes with her a personal fortune of £85m and leaves us with an expensive addiction.

Well-heeled: The men behind women's shoes

Christian Louboutin

Paris-born Louboutin is known for his overtly sexy designs, admitting that he makes shoes for men to admire women in. He also introduced the now-ubiquitous concealed platform shape, which adds sturdiness as well as height. All Louboutin designs come with a lacquered crimson sole, the copyright to which he is currently claiming, making them all the more conspicuous on the red carpet.

Jimmy Choo

The label's namesake left his company in 2001 to set up a shoemaking institute in his native Malaysia, where students can learn the techniques that got him to the top. He was born into a family of shoemakers and cast his first at the age of 11, before going on to study at London's Cordwainers College and setting up a bespoke shoe company in the 1980s, and going into business with Mellon.

Manolo Blahnik

Truly the king of shoes, Manolo Blahnik's spindly styles have been on the best feet in town since the Sixties, when he bucked the trend for chunky platforms and reintroduced more classically elegant styles. His name became a byword for fashionable fabulousness in the TV series Sex and the City, in which main character Carrie regularly maxed out her credit card in his shop.

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all