'Shoes do not need buckles, tassels, gilt or gloss - just structured simplicity'
Armando Pollini's minimalist footwear will soon be on sale at his new London store. By Melanie Rickey
Saturday 26 August 1995
Pollini's grand passion is footwear and has been since 1958 when, taking the lead from his father, who was a traditional shoemaker, he created his first pair of shoes. He still chuckles about them now.
"At that time every woman wore stilettos, they were everywhere," he says, "and there I was at 17 thinking I could change the world with my flat shoes."
He did not change the world then, but in less than 10 years, and following some experience away from his native Italy, he introduced his now famous "wedge shoe", which was adopted by the mini-skirted British girls who wore Mary Quant.
Since Armando Pollini Design began trading in the early Eighties, his collection of women's shoes and bags have built up an international and dedicated following. One of his most talked-about design achievements is his use of "elast", a stretchy grosgrain fabric traditionally used for corsets and bustiers. While demonstrating its elasticity, durability, washability, and snug fit, he gesticulates wildly, speaking Italian at 100 miles an hour.
His enthusiasm is infectious and with good reason. His "elast" footwear range encapsulates the new mood for autumn and winter fashion with thigh- , knee- and ankle-high boots, and also a comprehensive range of heeled and flat shoes.
He also injects fun into the classic shoe without making it unwearable. Glitter, ponyskin and zebra print may sound garish, but when they are combined with simple styling they have an appeal that will be popular with women of all ages, and definitely for those with an adventurous streak.
Now 54, Pollini's enduring love for London has drawn him back here after almost 30 years away. He toyed with the idea of setting up his international flagship store in New York, but then transferred his attentions to London and soon set about making it a reality. The perfect shop did not materialise straight away, so when 35 Brook Street came on the market, he seized the opportunity. "It is exactly the right time for me to open in London, " he states.
"Internationally, it is where things are happening, the attitude is fresh, and people are far more willing to explore." He believes his shoes, and the soon-to-be-launched clothing line, also made from the "elast" fabric, have found their spiritual home in London.
The imposing five-storey emporium is a landmark for all those who have ever walked down South Molton (it stands opposite the end of the street), and has a magnificent floor-to-ceiling glass front. Once inside, the decor conjures up images of an opulent Milanese palazzo. Washed pistachio walls, smoked glass fittings and a sweeping staircase add to the understated grandeur of the space, but in no way detractfrom the simplicity of the unadorned footwear available there.
As fashion moves towards pared-down elegance, Pollini's timing could not be better. The influence of design labels such as Prada, Jil Sander and Calvin Klein have paved the way for his style of minimalist footwear.
"A shoe for me is the only accessory," he says, "with no need for any buckles, tassels, gilt or gloss, just structured simplicity. This is all a truly modern woman needs."
Armando Pollini Design, 35 Brook Street, London W1. For local stockists and further information call 0171-629 7606. The ground floor is already open to the public, but the shop will launch fully on 6 September.
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