Shoe Shine

Designer Rod Beckett considers the many ways to adorn a woman's foot

Beckett prefers to keep his designs whimsical, which is proving successful for both him and his company. One of his designs for this spring "just flew out" to retailers, he says: an open-toed slide made of lenticular vinyl, the material serving as a canvas for 3D images. A flower turns into a butterfly, into a flower, into a butterfly as a woman walks; a school of fish transforms into a coral reef. The idea, says Beckett, came from kids' 3-D stickers, not the ones in which the image of Christ becomes the shroud of Turin -- but who knows what could happen next in the world of fashion?

Fashion can be criticized as a superficial art form, but what ends up on women's feet can have as much social significance as what Elliot Smith hangs on his gallery's walls. If European women are willing to grimace through an evening in those pointy toes and stiletto heels whereas American women would rather walk blithely down the boulevard going "tulip, butterfly, tulip, butterfly," there's enough to be derived from that cultural contrast for at least one epic dissertation in a variety of fields.

But don't expect any sort of academic exploration into the cultural meaning of fashion from Beckett. Another season, another show: "Women used to dress up for work and change into something casual when they got home. Now they're dressing casual to work and want to dress up when they go out." This year, it's an embrace of the feminine; in another year it will be something else -- no-nonsense footwear or she-wolf footwear.

Fashion can be criticized as a superficial art form, but what ends up on women's feet can have as much social significance as what Elliot Smith hangs on his gallery's walls.
Fashion can be criticized as a superficial art form, but what ends up on women's feet can have as much social significance as what Elliot Smith hangs on his gallery's walls.

Beckett flies to Milan, flies to London, flies to New York, flies to San Francisco and returns home to Chesterfield and tries to read the trends: "For this winter, boots were dominant in fashion, and we see that continuing." He goes to his sketchpad and thinks about that Portrait of a Lady theme and what shoes will go with that. He thinks about what's coming out in handbags and jewelry. His original sketches, he says, then "need to be focused down to what really is going to be put into a live prototype. Then that needs to be refined." Already he predicts the "purple family and green family" will be prominent colors for 2002. When preparing a line for the runway, he also must pick the clothes and accessories to best accentuate the shoes. "It's fun, not stressful," he says of the runway extravaganza.

And does he really like these creations? Is there any hint of cynicism involving the business of decorating a woman's foot?

"I love 'em," he says happily.

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