PARIS — Gilded heritage names that have been making elaborate ball gowns since the last century are not the only houses to claim places in the creative pantheon during the couture. Jewelers also made their bid and, now, two footwear names have joined the fray.
Diego Dolcini, the head footwear designer for Balmain, has masterminded shoes for some of the biggest brands in fashion (Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana) — not to mention for stars such as Madonna (like the thigh-high black boots balanced on a rearing panther for a 2013 Harper’s Bazaar shoot) and Rihanna, and has also run a namesake line since 1993. Still, he has been largely an insider’s secret.
This week in Paris, to celebrate his 25th anniversary in the business, the affable Italian decided to step out from behind the velvet curtain and team up with the luxury glassmaker Baccarat to create a collection of 15 limited-edition shoes with couture-worthy dazzle and savoir-faire. Named after famous Frenchwomen — Catherine (Deneuve), Brigitte (Bardot) and Lou (Doillon) — the shoes all share one signature: a sky-high crystal heel, which comes in two lengths and in three designs inspired by the stems of Baccarat’s champagne flutes, its Zenith chandelier and crystal balls.
“When the house first came to me with the idea, we knew it would be very challenging,” Mr. Dolcini said. “It took six months of research and development to find the perfect balance and the right amount of pressure on the heel.”
Each heel — attached to, say, a strappy sandal with a rich red satin ribbon, or a black mesh ankle boot with a deep purple toe cap — is strengthened by an internal steel stem that takes the wearer’s full weight, a painstaking craftsmanship process that means the shoes are as much a feat of engineering as they are of design.
“Pieces like these make you think in a whole new way about footwear and how to take it to new heights,” Mr. Dolcini said, no pun intended. “What’s more, there are women who want shoes like this, that are things of real beauty and that no one else has. Especially during Paris couture.”
This was a sentiment echoed by Christian Louboutin Outlet, founder of one of the world’s best-known luxury replica shoe brands, who also debuted a collection of made-to-order styles (Beyoncé is wearing Louboutins as part of her stage wardrobe for her current world tour). Imagine black matte alligator pumps with gold-plated wooden spikes shooting out from the heel, and knee-high white quilted sneakers with metal soles, and you’ll get the idea.
“There is a great deal of attention paid to runway couture and haute joaillerie, but I wanted to highlight the fact that there are many artisans in my workshops who are also able to make pieces that aren’t mass produced, and of the most exquisite quality,” he said.
“It’s a different way of thinking and creating, it expands the imagination,” Mr. Louboutin added. “That’s what all bespoke fashion should be able to do.”