Success is a pushover for platform shoes

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The Independent Online
Not with a bang but with a topple: that is the way a pair of haute couture shoes found their way from the catwalk onto the High Street - at least in the case of Vivienne Westwood's celebrated skyscraper platforms.

The shoes, which stunned the fashion world by achieving new heights of impracticality, were famously modelled by Naomi Campbell three years ago in Paris. The shoes were so high that she lost her balance and toppled over in full view of the fashion photographers.

The fall was viewed as an appropriately absurd presentation of a high-fashion joke. But three years on, platform shoes with heels only modestly lower than Westwood's have become one of the most popular items of footwear.

At the time when Campbell stumbled a few paces in them they were available only from Westwood, who charged around pounds 180 for a pair. They are currently lined up in chain stores and High Streets throughout the country for as little as pounds 20.

Their success has been attributed to the recent nostalgia for the Seventies. Westwood, in classic designer style, apparently anticipated the move backwards, commenting that "there is nothing new under the sun" in the world of fashion.

Three years on, for those determined to keep up with the times, albeit trippingly, the platform heel is a must.

The first were designed by Salvatore Ferragamo in the late Thirties, although women were wearing cork wedges as early as the 1500s.

The original pair of Westwood's classic blue platform-heeled shoes have been pre- served for posterity. They are currently displayed in a glass cabinet at the Victoria and Albert Museum, acquired by Amy de la Haye, curator of the department of 20th-century dress, who described how they epitomised the world of high fashion.

Ms de la Haye said: "In these shoes, you get out of a taxi, sit down and look fabulous. They are definitely for the leisured life. But people have always worn uncomfortable clothes. Glamour isn't painless."