Sneakers. Since when did they become haute couture?? Seriously?? Yes, you heard me. Put down your Louboutins, throw away your Manolos and send your Giuseppe Zanottis straight to the consignment store, because sneakers are apparently the hottest haute new thing. No, I’m not high. I promise.
Last week in Paris, a handful of luxury designers showed at Haute Couture Fashion Week. For just a moment, forget the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week that takes over New York yet again on Feb. 6. If New York Fashion Week is the bar, then Haute Couture Week is the VIP room and actually protected by the Paris Chamber of Commerce, as only certain brands are allowed to show. You know, Valentino, Armani Privé, Kanye West … just kidding about that last one. I hope. Head of Chanel Karl Lagerfeld toddled out of the Rue Cambon with his cat, Choupette, and sent sneakers down the runway on every single model this season, including his bridal show-closer on his favorite model du jour, Cara Delevingne. Ditto for Raf Simons for Christian Dior — we’ve got two major design labels that blew off heels for something we normally associate with sweat and burn, not champagne and posing. Well, now that I’m thinking about it … are the two that different? Yes. I still say sneakers are a long way from couture.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t hate sneakers. I’m wearing a pair right now, and I’d injure myself if I tried to work out in them. They are black leather Converse ankle boots with laces — cute and great for indoor winter wear, but with no arch support whatsoever. BUT. I would never, ever wear them with a ball gown.
I really think we’re being punked, and here’s why. It’s not unheard of for high-end labels to do sneakers. I’ve had Gianni Barbato and Louis Vuitton sneakers, and I’ve even been gifted a pair of gold, glittery Jimmy Choo lace-ups by a certain reality television network. Yeah. I took those loud and shiny bad boys and put them in my “straight to donate” bin. Those sneakers blinded me, just like many of the housewives deafened me. But that’s another story.
Back to Chanel and Dior. Both labels embellished the hell out of their sneakers. Chanel used lace, embroidery, beading, flowers, crystals, bits of fabric from the line as well as tulle for the laces. Dior started with a more traditional flat shoe and covered it in crystals and beads, with a definite sneaker sole. If I had to choose, I’d say Chanel’s were better and more fanciful, not to mention particularly perfect for each look down the runway. Karl even added fanny packs and kneepads, which have all sorts of fun uses. Dior’s sneakers were sprinkled throughout the collection among heels and booties, and they looked like bedazzled Skechers. Blah.
Now … here’s the fun part. You could totally see the K-Pop crowd, the hipsters and princesses loving those Chanel sneakers, right? Can you see them on the feet of a hot blonde on a bar crawl in Williamsburg? Not so fast. While you CAN buy them, the sneakers will only be sold as part of the head-to-toe couture runway look. So if you want your lacy, matching fabric kicks, you’ll need to drop about 15,000 euros on the gown, hat and gloves. Don’t forget the fanny pack and kneepads. Fashionistas estimate that the retail value of the sneakers would average around 3,000 euros, if they were to be sold solo, which is clearly above and beyond the reach of the 99%. Also, even if I wanted to spend that much money, I personally wouldn’t want to wear sneakers with a ball gown because it wouldn’t feel as dressy and special as couture is supposed to feel.
What is old Karl playing at here? Perhaps he wanted to create something exclusive that no one else has and, with the exception of Dior, no one else is doing on the runway. That’s fair, and he succeeded. For a brand tie-in, it works well, though I prefer the Roberto Cavalli jeans my husband has that are patched with all the runway fabrics from the past five seasons — the difference being that those jeans were for sale without having to buy every single ball gown the fabrics came from.
I suppose sneakers can be sexy. Maybe this will encourage a new wave of artistic do-it-yourself’ing, where the chic pack decorate their own shoes to match their wardrobe. Maybe it will trickle down and we’ll see Diesel, ASOS, Topshop, etc. doing the same. I am SURE that those who have pull in the fashion industry will be stabbing each other to get their hands on the runway samples. I don’t know whether Karl and Raf’s trend will make its way to the red carpet, but one thing is certain: if Jennifer Lawrence wears Dior sneakers under her gown to the Oscars this year, she’ll be less likely to fall on her face!