When the Victoria’s Secret fashion show was first held in 1995, the primary focus of the event was, obviously, the lingerie, while delightful footwear was but a footnote, so to speak.
Fast-forward more than two decades, and the shoes — thigh-high, fur-trimmed, and leather boots, gladiator heels, and sky-high stilettos — account for just as much of the costumes as do the bras, if not more.
Victoria’s Secret itself doesn’t sell shoes — at least not really, save a pair of Ugg-like suede boots and furry slides on its Pink site, which targets younger shoppers. Yet chatter about the elaborate footwear on the Victoria’s Secret runways recurs annually, thanks in part to help from designers favored by Hollywood. (Before Atwood, Nicholas Kirkwood, and Sophia Webster designed the heels.)
Among Atwood’s relationships with celebrities like Melissa McCarthy, Lindsay Lohan and Jennifer Lopez, he’s known for towering stilettos with prices equally as daunting to most women. The line is typically sold at luxury retailers like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, or online at Net-a-Porter. The Brian Atwood brand — originally launched in 2001, with footwear to come a decade later — might belong to a commercial enterprise (Steve Madden Ltd., which purchased the rights to Atwood’s business in 2014, calls the brand “super luxury”), but his shoes aren’t well known to most Americans.
It’s that very reason working with Victoria’s Secret is just as important to Atwood as it is for the lingerie company. For Atwood, it’s a shot at reaching an 800 million-plus size audience worldwide, not all of whom may be able to afford the Atwood brand but can all aspire to it.
For Victoria’s Secret, working with Atwood (as well as French luxury brand Balmain) bolsters the commercial brand’s cachet. “Bringing in real high-end designers elevates [Victoria’s Secret] to a more sophisticated level on the world stage,” Atwood tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They’re smart to add those elements.”
That’s especially the case when one thinks of Chinese consumers and their penchant for luxury wares. “They love luxury and they love the high fashion; in my opinion it’s an obsession,” Atwood says of Chinese consumers. “I have a great relationship in that market, and they always want what’s new. That’s their addiction.”
As for the shoes themselves, there are 100 pairs made for the show that are divided into 22 styles, pegged to a few distinct themes (think of them like collections within the larger show). For 2017, there is “nomadic adventure,” “porcelain angel,” “a winter’s tale,” and lastly “punk angel” to accompany the Balmain x Victoria’s Secret collection that his friend and fellow designer Olivier Rousteing designed. (Unlike Atwood’s creations, the Balmain line for Victoria’s Secret will be available for purchase by consumers.)
Atwood is most excited about the details in each design — be it micro-daggers or sequins or inlayed feathers. Heel height is of no concern to the designer, who says professional models know how to walk in five-inch heels. (Still, one model fell during this year’s show, tripping over her cape.) Designing for Victoria’s Secret is “like being given carte blanche to do what you want,” Atwood says.
Sometimes that’s problematic. As of this writing, the show has not yet broadcast in the U.S. (it does so on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 9 p.m. ET), but eagle-eyed consumers have already accused the brand of cultural appropriation, as in years past. Nomadic adventure — with its tribal prints that some say exploit Native Americans — has been prophesied as problematic.
If the designs don’t deter you, availability will. In addition to the fact that you can’t purchase any of the show’s shoes, it’s tough to find any of Atwood’s shoes online right now that aren’t resale. The designer is preparing a relaunch for the spring, and several luxury department store websites don’t currently carry any Brian Atwood inventory. Atwood did say that his next collection will adapt some of the designs from the Victoria’s Secret runway, though.
In the meantime, you can shop for styles similar to those Atwood created for the show. And if Victoria’s Secret’s luxury bets pay off, maybe you’ll be inspired to buy new lingerie too.
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