In the footwear war between style and substance, comfort remains king.
Shoe makers are streamlining their styles and injecting coziness into their shoes more than ever before Leslie Gallin said after scouring the offerings at the World Shoe Association Show in Las Vegas.
Gallin hand picks the high-end brands showcased at The Collections at the show. The former Geoffrey Beene vice president said the wobbly economy means consumers will ditch their Carrie Bradshaw ways in coming months and instead make like Cinderella, using more discretion when choosing which shoes are best for them.
Gallin noticed five footwear trends that could help shoe buyers make dashing decisions:
Keeping comfort close -- Shoe designers are making way for such amenities as silicone foot insoles that add cushy support and specially treated leathers that help shoes fit like gloves. The comfy luxuries aren't just being reserved for sneakers anymore. Gallin said fashion-forward shoe companies are taking big risks to make their designs feel as fabulous as they look.
"I think Generation X realized it first," said Gallin. "The Baby Boomers were still sacrificing comfort for style. Then, we finally discovered you can have both. Now, I think everyone is on the same page. Designers and manufacturers are putting real scientific knowledge into their shoes in order to save the comfort."
It's a jungle down there -- Call it a comeback. From python to zebra skin, animal printed shoes stampeded across the WSA Show in several different styles. This time, however, texture has become just as important as the pattern itself. Shoe makers are now making it a point to infuse slick and velvety depth into animal printed shoes without compromising the integrity of your own hooves.
"It doesn't have to be real, but it's doesn't also have to appear fake," said Gallin. "Manufacturers are doing a great deal with paper. It's eco-friendly and looks like snake skin, yet it's strong enough to use to make shoes and handbags. I defy most people to tell the difference between it and real snake skin. It's completely unbelievable."
The push for prints isn't limited to creatures. Wallpaper-inspired designs are coming off the walls and onto consumers' feet. Designers displayed several formal and causal shoe styles at the WSA Show that were embossed with rich and regal patterns worthy of being glued to the most formal of rooms.
Old is new again and again -- Vintage styles and colors from the 1930s to the '50s have left a lasting impression on the footwear industry.
Jewel tones and old-school metallics such as rose gold and muted silver continue to be popular choices for women's footwear. Peep-toed shoes also have become an elegant but not over-the-top shoe construction staple while classic one- to two-inch heels provide modern comfort.
"That really translates across America regardless of price-point," said Gallin. "They tend to be far more realistic. Yes, the high, high heels are certainly here, but that's more for dressing up and going out, not necessarily your average shoe. These vintage-inspired styles really lend themselves to shorter, comfortable heels."
Making another statement -- The green movement has extended to your feet. Almost.
"It still has a way to go," said Gallin. "It's going to take Europe embracing this trend and mixing it with the technology. The top of the shoe might be eco-friendly, but the bottom might not be. There's definitely a shift in that direction because it also makes the shoe lighter. Anything that makes a shoe light is good."
Meanwhile, non-leather vegan shoes were more prominent at the WSA Show, thanks to advances in synthetic manufacturing and chemical treatments. The materials are virtually identical to their genuine counterparts, but they're still more expensive, which means consumers looking for animal-free shoes don't have quite as many options.
Flats will get you everywhere -- Don't worry, ladies. Flats -- ballerina, square, platform, whatever -- are here to stay. Gallin said the simple style that has been sweeping the industry in the past five years shows no signs of leveling. Despite a desire to introduce new trends, shoe makers had plenty of new non-heeled slippers to show off to retail buyers. It's another example of comfort.
"Every maturation of flat is here to stay," said Gallin. "That kind of comfort will never go out of style."for more information, please visit www.ishoesclub.com