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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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

    Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

    Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

    £96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

    £32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee