Harriet Quick on all things shoes at Vogue
Former Fashion Features Director at British Vogue visited The Upper House recently along with Kim Kollar from Peddar Group and Divia Harilela from SCMP to talk about her new book Vogue: The Shoe which looks back through a century of shoes as an object of wonder and creativity. In collaboration with Lane Crawford, the book features over 300 images shot by some of Vogue’s most renowned photographers.
Harriet, Kim and Divia show us that there is no such thing as owning too many pairs of shoes and discussed the little details from feminism, designers, and fashion. Harriet notes that the fantasy with shoes is still alive and well, even with the recent trend for sneakers. “There is a huge range and we are in a time of individuality and that is reflective in the array of shoes we own”.
Kim believes good craftsmanship guarantees the longevity of the brand and Harriet adds on that “technology in itself is a craft”. With the evolution of technology, “it speeds up the process as it can determine if something is technically possible. The idea is to maintain the beautiful traditions of craftsmanship but marry them with what’s available in technology.”
“With the revolution of social media, everyone is their own editor and their own stylist as we know how much power is in that choice and in that shoe”. Kim adds, “At first it was the single sole stiletto pump with jeans and then it became Stan Smiths. It’s all a cycle and we want to hold onto each trend for a bit”.
The shoe has transformed from just being a secondary product to the outfit to now defining the outfit. How has it evolved?
Kim: Music plays a big impact, for example punk lovers tend to wear Doc Martens so it really influences a lot of fashion brands. Music also impacts the street culture which defines the fashion and styles.
Do you think shoes still hold fantasy or fashion today? We have seen change and it evolve over time and now we see this trend with sneakers and still have designers like Christian Louboutin and shoes being fantastical. Is there still room for fantasy with shoes?
Harriet: It is alive and well. There is a huge range and we are in a time of individuality and that is reflective in the array of shoes we own.
Do you think it becomes confusing for women because there is so much choice out there?
Harriet: It becomes expensive.
In terms of shoes representing culture and the time, we have seen shoes, in the past 10 years, being linked to feminism. Heels can be seen as pro-feminism as well as anti-feminism. Curious to see the connection between shoes and feminism?
Kim: I think it’s a personal choice to wear heels. You make that choice to wear 120mm heels and you know how much power there is in that choice and in that shoe. I met my husband in 100-120mm heels. I think it’s not just the courage in how you look in the shoes but what separates us from the men.
What do you think drives shoe trends for you guys? Is it what’s happening on the streets, editors, designers?
Harriet: There used to be dictators but now with the revolution of social media, everyone is their own editor and their own stylist so there’s many point of views. Shoe trends will always start from the catwalk to designers and populate up from street culture and meet somewhere in the middle. Joint forces will meet in the middle. Also, there is celebrity and entertainment and music culture to meet our desires of what we want to wear.
In terms of shoes, at the same time there has been a change to more comfortable shoes. Less of high heels and embracing trainers which is new. Why do you think this has happened? We saw it in fashion shows first where people wore wide leg pants and shorts which we questioned but were found very comfortable. Before at fashion shows, you wouldn’t see a pair of trainers but now every other person is wearing them. Why do you think we’ve had a movement towards that? Shoes are about empowerment and beauty but now we’re embracing things that actually are quite simple and comfortable?
Kim: I think it’s a cycle. At first, it was the single sole stiletto pump with jeans and then it became Stan Smiths, which looks cool. Then Nike started making cool shoes that became paired with dresses. It cycles in but eventually cycles out as well. We put it on and it looks cool and comfortable, it’s a bonus and we want to hold onto this trend for a bit.
Designers are starting to dictate as we saw from 10-15 years ago that there were very few shoe designers and now that is changing. How has this changed and why have we seen it rise?
Kim: There is always a need for new point of views in what we see and designers are able to come in and offer their propositions. Shoes cycle as with the new designers. Before it was just the big house shoes but now these new designers have their people buying their shoes, wearing their shoes because the style is new and fresh and the price point is good.
What do you think these special shoe designers are offering customers that may like the big luxury shoes?
Kim: In the creative process, people get used to doing things a certain way. Working for a lot of people, these designers have just been storing all this creativity and now can use it to build and share their own brand. Their intelligence is unique.
Do you think craft is important today with the new brands since it’s all about telling a story and how important it’s going to be in the industry moving forward?
Kim: Good craftsmanship guarantees the longevity of a brand. Refer to the Caovilla family, who I think deserves to talk about the history as they’ve been making shoes for a long time.
Where do you think technology is changing the shoe?
Harriet: I think technology in itself is a craft. The process of seeing things in 3-D printing prior to going to research and development speeds up the process as it can determine if something is technically possible. The idea is to maintain the beautiful traditions of craftsmanship but marry them with what’s available in technology.
Kim: I think when you first say craft, you think of leather but Harriet brings up an interesting point. You see all these plastic and rubber molded heels that are happening because of technology and new developments in materials.
What’s exciting you girls right now in terms of trends, designers, movements in the shoe industry?
Harriet: An elegant heel rather than being dominated by the obvious shoe. Elegant heels are timeless, classic, and fresh. Additionally, colours, finishes and the different ways of treating leather.
How do you find those designers that are going to be the one? Give you the shoe that is going to sell? Kim, do you follow any guidelines when you buy the shoe/select the designer? How do you know if the designer has the selling factor?
Kim: The design is immediate and if you’re on top of it, you can see where the designer is going. Like social media, everyone is always plugged in and there are always cues so it is based on instinct. People love some familiarity but with a twist – the designer is the twist and you can tell immediately. Is there any other article of clothing where the impracticality is celebrated? Men and women compliment your shoes no matter how comfortable they are.
Upcoming designers? Asia designers vs. the typical Italy/France/Europe designers?
Kim: You might be surprised but a lot of people are wearing shoes that are being made in China. It is amazing quality and you wouldn’t even know. Someone to look out for is China designer, Bing Xu who offers street-savvy yet timeless styles for men.