Getting a foot in the fetishist camp: Esther Oxford steps into a magic world of sole and sex

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The shoe, says Terry Havilland - known by neighbours as Cobbler to the Stars - is fashion's most erotic tool. The curve of the calf meeting the ankle, or the line from the thigh to the heel, are assets rarely explored by cobblers.

Early yesterday morning he made his point at Madame Jo Jo's, the famous night spot for transvestites, which was holding its first fashion show. Footwear by his Magic Shoe Company held centre stage with its mesmerising strappy shoes. As the audience cheered and whooped, he smiled.

In the world of transvestites and cross-dressers, at least, he truly had arrived. Now he has big plans for his business, which has shod Bianca Jagger, Britt Ekland and Boy George in the past few years. If Mr Havilland has his way, shoes with 'chastity belt buckles or red hearts trapped under the heel, will soon be in Soho. 'I'm going to open the most campest shoe shop in Europe, right here in the heart of the West End.

The shop, due to open in the next year, will sell fetish foot gear to 'anyone who wants to show off - male or female. It will be modelled on the present shop in Mile End Road, where his factory is too, only bigger. The new outlet will be 'exclusive, not in price, shoes range from pounds 45 to pounds 150; boots between pounds 70 and pounds 200, but in 'quality and style.

'The footwear will appeal to anyone who wants to stand out in a crowd, he said, adding Londoners are the ideal audience to launch into. 'It is the centre for wackiness. People will go for it here - they are bold. London leads the world in terms of fashion.

Customers have not always been 'eccentric. When he started shoe-making as a boy, he created Three-Tier Wedge shoes in the style of Carmen Miranda - not because his clients wanted to be frivolous, but because many had lost legs.

Later Mr Havilland took to accepting commissions: 'Kids would turn up with a scrap of paper and I'd sit down with them and try to make the design workable. I tried to make the shoes look sexy and flatter. But I also wanted them to stand out - I enjoyed the outrage.

A shop in King's Road stocked a small range. A magazine's fashion editor saw the display did a spread. It was the Sixties and the bright colours and brashness of the shoes startled her. 'That was the beginning of a business which spread to America, then later Europe and Japan. It wasn't a smooth ride. Business fluctuated throughout the Seventies and Eighties - from takings of half a million pounds in three days to bankruptcy - twice. 'One minute we were starting trends which were copied across the States, the next we would be selling up machinery because people hadn't payed our bills.

In 1988 The Magic Shoe Company was born. Mr Havilland had to start from scratch and for a while continued with his strictly male, strictly female range of platforms and stilettos. Then he started getting requests for 'size 9 girls' boots. Suddenly it clicked - the boys wanted girls' shoes. 'I went to a shop specialising in feminine shoes for men and found that there was a gap in the market. I decided to fill it.

The Fetish Range was established with a selection of 30 shoes and boots. Most popular boot is a platform lace-up with an 'extended tongue and straps going up the leg. It sells for pounds 97 and is popular in Germany and the US. About 8,000 pairs have sold internationally.

Despite success abroad, he has no plans to move. Labour is cheap in the East End; there is a tradition of shoe making there. And The Magic Shoe Company is meandering into a new source of clients: the transvestite scene. Mr Havilland used to make shoes for women or shoes for men. Now he makes 'feminine shoes for men. The Gorgeous Range of sandals are soon to be launched. 'They are made with silver fabric, snakeskin or gold. And glitter, acid, and hologram effect too.

Most of The Magic Shoe Company's 'fetish enthusiasts are straight. One businessman takes his thigh-high stiletto boots abroad in a briefcase, donning them on arrival.

Looking ahead, from a fashion-guru's perspective? Mr Havilland shrugged. Stilettos, he predicted, would be coming into the mainstream by the autumn. On the club scene, 5in platforms are all the rage. Or trainers with 3in commando soles attached to the base.

The show started with a wink. From a girl with no hair and eye lashes as long as a cow's. She was a little thing, but the shoes gave her stature. They were bold. Within minutes she was just one of a crowd. Men in kilts and chains. Girls topless but for their jewellery. All balanced on heels several inches high.

Mr Havilland stood motionless in the audience. His girlfriend was on stage, half-naked in a pair of his boots. This was 'F x 4 (Fierce Fantasy Fuck Fashion) at its most mesmerising: the straps, the wiggles, the colours, the heels.

The Magic Shoe Company's show is the first catwalk display at Madame Jo Jo's, in the heart of the red light district. 'We are looking for a more mixed crowd - gay, straight, lesbian, fetish, trannie combined, said Matt Brown, organiser that night. Entrance price is low (pounds 2 on Tuesday) and drink is pub priced. The club stays open until three, but 'peaks at about midnight which is cabaret time.

The audience looked mixed - students, businessmen, straight-laced women as well as fetish-lovers and gays and trannies - lanky, shrieky and mad. Most wore the 'old school of footwear - conventional and unremarkable. It felt better to dance in flat shoes, but if Mr Havilland knows what he is talking about, we couldn't have looked so good.

'There is something about the way heels make women walk, which makes them look incredibly sexy, he said. 'It is the way they are forced to wiggle, to lift their legs from the hips.

There was plenty of hip lifting. Most of the trannies were wearing thigh-high rubber boots with 5in heels. Some could even 'dance in them - a kind of monotonous strut up and down.

They all had bare bottoms but, sure enough, it was the feet that demanded one's attention.

(Photograph omitted)

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