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Jimmy Choo

Jimmy Choo the man

Born inMalaysia in 1957, Jimmy Choo is considered a grand-master of the stiletto heel. Choo made his first pair of shoes at the age of just 12 when working in the family business that was based out of their home.

Choo attended Cordwainer’s Technical College to perfect his knowledge of shoemaking while visiting relatives in London in the late 1970s .  He began designing footwear in 1980 under the name “Lucky Shoes”, quickly moving to a more custom-made shoe business by the mid-eighties.

Jimmy Choo also continued to build his own shoe line which became known for using exotic skins such as python, embossed leathers and fish skins. He achieved particular fame for his unusual embellishments, catching the eye of many celebrities that included Diana, Princess of Wales.

In 1996, Tamara Mellon, a stylist for British Vogue, approached Choo about taking the company to a larger scale, and would use her father’s wealth to back it.  The line was produced in Italy, and grew quickly, selling $400 a pair stilettos around the world.

Frequent mention of Choo’s stilettos in the press accounted for their success, such as the Bush twins wearing cashmere boots to their father’s inauguration in 2001.

Unfortunately creative differences between who actually designed the shoes soured the partnership between Choo, Mellon, and a niece who was also involved in the partnership, named Sandra Choi.  The Jimmy Choo name was owned by Mellon and Choi, and became its own household name.

The Jimmy Choo brand was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2014. It was subsequently bought by Michael Kors in a transaction which completed on 1 November 2017.

Image credit (top): TEDxShanghai Jimmy Choo” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Lawrence Wang 王治钧

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Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahnik is the modern legend for today’s stiletto heel, probably the greatest shoemaker of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The maestro of mules did not come from fashion royalty: Manolo Blahnik was born in 1943 on his parents’ banana plantation in the Canary Islands. After an unsuccessful time studying law and politics in Geneva, he moved to Paris in the mid-1960s to study set design.

Yet Blahnik’s interest in footwear was formed early in life. In the 2017 bio-pic Manolo: the boy who made shoes for lizards, Blahnik recounts that he would capture lizards on the island when he was a child and make shoes for them out of Cadbury’s foil chocolate wrappers!

As a child Blahnik had also been enchanted by his nanny’s “fantastic” espadrilles and his mother’s spectacular shoe collection – she was “mad for shoes” he said.

Upon meeting Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue Magazine in American, Blahnik took an interest in designing shoes and introduced his first collection for Ossie Clark in 1972. Clark was “the man” in London at those times, and Blahnik has always counted himself lucky to get the design brief.

“Focus on extremities!” Vreedland had earlier told Blahnik when meeting him in 1970. “Oh my dear boy, do accessories”, she implored the young designer according to Blahnik himself. “Do shoes, shoes!”

 

Blahnik gathered a slew of celebrity friends as he partied his way around London, and became known for the shoes that Bianca Jagger wore for her big entrance on a white horse to Studio 54 in 1977.

Although well known in fashion circles by then, Blahnik became much of a household name due to the love affair that Carrie presented his shoes in Sex in the City on HBO in early 2000’s.

Since then, the name “Manolos” is frequently referred to in popular music, movies, TV shoes, and other pop culture references.  His sensual style has become the gold standard in which stilettos are thought of.

Manolo Blahnik

The first man on the cover of British Vogue, Blahnik is also a firm favorite of current Vogue editor Anna Wintour. “I can’t remember the last time I wore somebody else’s shoes,” Wintour has said. “I mean I just don’t even look at them!”

After designing over 25,000 shoes, Blahnik still sketches around 600 pairs a year. He is always seen doing this while wearing gloves because the inks he uses – from the legendary Dr Ph Martins – go straight into the skin and don’t come out easily.

Still carving the first wooden shoe lasts for his new models even though he is in his 70s, Blahnik has confessed that “My joy in life is spending time in the factories… It’s quiet sad to say, but this is the only thing that I love!”

The trade off is that many claim that his stilettos are the most comfortable of their style, as Blahnik has a true understanding of the contours of a woman’s foot.

Roger Vivier

The world of stiletto heels owes its popularity if not its existence to French designer Roger Vivier.  Named for the Italian word meaning small metal dagger, stilettos became an international sensation when Vivier first introduced them in 1954 for the House of Dior.

While the idea of a stiletto heel was hinted at through fetish drawings in the late 1800’s, they were not created for mass appeal until his unveiling. Even today, many years after his death in 1998, Vivier is known as the “father of high heels” or the “Fabergé of Footwear.”

Roger Vivier’s early career

In 1937 Roger Vivier founded his own boutique and atelier (meaning “workshop” or “studio”) in Paris, from which he began to sell women’s shoes that he had designed.

However, with World War 2 looming, Vivier escaped by boat to the United States of America. There he continued shoemaking until the USA entered the war in 1942 and passed a law restricting the production of new shoes.

Undeterred, Vivier turned his skills to making exquisite hats, opening a shop on Madison Ave in New York. He returned to France in 1947, having taken the opportunity to meet Christian Dior on the boat on the way back. From here his career would really take off.

Post war years

On his return to Paris, Vivier experimented with the use of clear plastics in the footwear industry (yes, like you might see today on stripper shoes) but his key achievement was to team up as the designer for Christian Dior in 1953. This was the first time that a couturier had ever directly associated his brand name with a shoemaker’s to promote a mass-market shoe line.

The shoe line took off. During this time, Vivier also created incredible masterpieces of luxury shoes that were worn by the wealthy, celebrities, and even royalty.  Queen Elizabeth II wore his shoes for her coronation in 1953.  His use of opulent silks, jewels, beading, lace, and other appliqués were a credit to his masterful style.

One year later, in 1954 Vivier increased the height of the heels he was producing from 6cm to 8cm (2.3 inches to 3.1 inches).

Using a thin metal rod, he designed the infamous thin high heel of the stiletto as if it were a piece of sculpture, which he had studied at the Ecole des Beaux in Paris.  (Vivier had left his studies to design for a shoe factory in 1936, at the beginning of his career).

Vivier would forever after be known as one of the inventors of the stiletto heel.

Later career and death

 

When Christian Dior died in 1957, Roger began a collaboration with Dior’s successor, Yves Saint Laurent.

His best was yet to come:  in 1967, Catherine Deneuve wore Rogier Vivier pilgrim shoes in the movie Belle de Jour. The movie was a huge success and the buckle “pilgrim” shoes went on to become Vivier’s best seller.

Today we still see the legacy that Vivier left behind in the way his designs still influence.

Perhaps unlike modern celebrity shoemakers, Vivier remained a quiet soul – unobtrusive and modest to the end. He died in 1998 aged 91, leaving one son.


What’s the return rate for shoes purchased online?

return rates for high heels

A rough statistic for the return rate of shoes purchased over the internet is often quoted as between 20% and 35%. That is, one pair of shoes is returned for roughly every three to five sales.

That may seem high. However some sources cite return rates as high as 50%!

Estimating the “return rate” for shoes purchased online is quite a difficult issue because there is not much data out there. In this post we analyse the information which is available on return rates.

In the end, we conclude that the return rate for high heels is likely to be about 25%: that is, one in every four pairs is returned.

Our conclusions are presented in detail below. We have referred to the available statistical evidence. We will update this post if more information becomes available.

Return rate for shoe ordered online

The only shoe-specialist retailer to have spoken out about its return rates is Zappos shoes, way back in March 2010. Zappos said that on average customers returned 35% of the items they ordered.

At this time, Craig Adkins, then vice president of services and operations at Zappos, explained to Internet Retailer that the company’s best customers returned 50% of their items:

“Our best customers have the highest return rates, but they are also the ones that spend the most money with us and are our most profitable customers.”

As this rate seems high, it may be explained by the fact that Zappos practically begs its customers to take products to try on – and to return them if they don’t.

Then again, another retailer of high heels which has also quoted its return rate at 50% recently is German merchant Zalando. On 18 July 2014, Zalando told readers of its blog that:

“Our return rate is around 50 percent across all markets and categories.”

Zalando’s disclosed return rate does not distinguish between shoes and other apparel, so it is not a guide to only the shoe return rates.

Return rate for clothing and apparel ordered online

This leads us to the return rates for apparel generally.

Some guide can be taken from research conducted by the University of Regensburg in 2013. This study found that online retailers that were active in the clothing sector indicated a return rate of between 25 % and 50%.

This figure is very broad so it is also not particularly helpful.

Another 2013 study also addresses the issue, this time by Copenhagen Economics (E-commerce and delivery). This study also didn’t give a clear indicator of return rates, saying simply that they ranged between 1% and 50%.

The study did at least indicate that shoes were amongst the highest items returned, stating:

Actual return rates range from less than 1 per cent up to 50 per cent, with the majority of e-retailers experiencing return rates between 1 and 10 per cent… The highest return rates are experienced by e-retailers selling clothing, shoes and jewellery, as well as electronic equipment and household appliances.

The Copenhagen Economics study also re-inforced the Zappos model: namely that high return rates can be a good thing for retailers of shoes. It stated:

A high rate of returns is not necessarily a sign of consumer dissatisfaction. In fact, a high return rate can be part of a successful business model for e-retailers selling apparel, shoes etc. By offering free delivery and free returns, e-retailers move the fitting room from a physical shop to the customers’ home.

 

What are the problems for retailers with high return rates?

According to a worldwide study conducted by Pitney Bowes in 2011 (E-commerce survey provides roadmap), 20% of online shoppers consider return policies the most important factor when shopping online in the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea.

With many retailers offering “free returns” to cater for this audience, the cost and difficulty of high return rates can become a problem for retailers. So what are some of the major issues with this?

Perhaps the most important consequence of a high return rate is that it will result in  double-handling as goods are re-received into warehouses. The work involved here involves checking that each product being returned has not been damaged or worn by the person returning it.

An associated issue, particularly with the return of designer shoes, is “switch fraud.” This happens when a customer orders an expensive pair of designer shoes and returns them – but before returning them swaps the designer items for cheap knock-off replicas.

Major retailers quickly developed processes to handle “switch fraud” but they involve extra work – and therefore cost – for the retailer.

A second problem with the return of goods is that it will complicate accounting processes, and may include processing fees when a credit card payment is reversed. The retailer will have to absorb these costs.

A final issue for retailers is that there is also the cost of the actual return (ie the postage) where the retailer has offered free returns.

There may not be a simple answer to these issues. What we do know is that retailers of high heels must account for a significant percentage of their goods to be returned by online shoppers. This is unlikely to change in the short term.

 

High heel size chart

Converting high heel sizesConverting between international high heel sizes is not as difficult or painful as you might think.

Using our free shoe conversion chart will help you easily swap between USA shoe sizes and European, Australian and British ones easily.

Please read the accompanying notes when you use the chart below to convert high heel sizes.


Free international high heel size conversion chart

US / Australian European UK
5 36 3
6 37 4
7 38 5
8 39 6
9 40 7
10 41 8

Here are some hints to help you use this chart:

  • US and Australian sizes for high heels are *the same.* You do not need to convert between these two shoe sizes.
  • The shoe size conversion between US and UK sizes is based on the rule which the majority of authorities rely on: just deduct 2 sizes to go from a US size to a UK one. However a minority of manufacturers recommend deducting 3 sizes (Christian Louboutin is one of these). If in doubt, ask the manufacturer.
  • For half sizes, just add on 0.5 to each measurement.
  • The most popular women’s shoe size in the USA is a US 8. This is a European size 39 and a British size 6.
  • This information is intended as a guideline. Unfortunately sizing and fit may sometimes vary between brand. Where a brand publishes its own conversion guide, you should use that.

For more help in using our chart, there are a few things which it is important to know about converting shoes sizes internationally. You can find them below.

Sizes differ between brands but you should stick to your most usual size

It seems crazy but not all shoe manufacturers use exactly the same sizings. This can mean that if you’re a 7.5 in one brand, it is possible that you’ll be an 8 in another brand.

In turn, this means that you might convert a size and find that your heels are too big or too small. However, it is important to understand that this is not a problem with the conversion: it is one of the vagaries of buying stilettos.

You are more likely to get the shoe sizing right than get it wrong

Most people who buy high heels online end up with the right sized shoe! Although many people do have to return heels, the evidence from retailers suggests that return rates are around 35%.

If we accept that this applies to high heels, it means that 2 out of 3 purchasers are happy with their purchases. Of those who are not, many will be returned because the purchaser did not like the shoe – not because the shoe didn’t fit.

This means that most people buying shoes online get the fit right. You are also likely to do so, if necessary with the help of a trustworthy shoe size conversion chart like the one at the bottom of this post.

Measuring your feet is hard

Some online sites suggest that, rather than converting your shoes size, you should instead measure your feet and pick your shoe size from the measurements.

This might be possible but it is not always easy. Many shoe manufacturers have experimented with different methods to get people to more accurately measure their shoe size when ordering shoes online.

In the end, the usual conclusion is that just ordering your regular shoe size gives you the best chance of getting the correct fit. Measuring your feet is actually quite difficult to do, and your usual size is still the best guide.

There is no international “standard” for shoe size conversion

Our shoe size chart is based on the best, most widely agreed conversions for shoe sizes.

Not all shoe size charts will agree with ours because there is no absolute international standard for shoe size conversion.

Even leading manufacturers will differ slightly in their calculations. If you are buying from a brand that publishes its own shoe size conversion chart then you should follow that if it differs from our chart.

Our high heel conversion chart is based on the *most common* conversions between US and Australian sizes and European and English sizes. It is based both on our extensive experience and our research.

Good luck converting the size of your high heels and we hope you enjoy your purchases.

Download this chart?

If you’d like this chart as an image, it is available below.

Gold high heels

Gold pumps

Gold high heeled shoes are always popular for the party season. Whether it’s gold high heeled sandals with a flowery dress in the height of summer, or gold pumps to add a real “pop” to a little black dress, metallics have always been a wardrobe staple.

We’ve picked out our favorite gold high heels for our readers today. Of course, we’re talking about gold colored high heels were – we’re assuming you don’t have $100,000 to go and spend on a pair of shoes made with real 18 carat white or yellow gold!

gold nine west pumps

The clear winner is Tatiana by Nine West. This shimmering gold pump is extremely popular at Zappos.com where it retails for $79.00 with free shipping.

Tatiana has good reviews for comfort, like all Nine West shoes. Its 4 inch wrapped heel will add the life to any party and will get you noticed in all the best of ways.

Kate Spade gold stilettos

To lux things up, but to take the heel height down an inch, Kate Spade’s peeptoe pumps are a must.

This heel is called Sage and it is a 3 inch, slip-on double d’Orsay delight. To add glamour and sophistication to your outfit, look no further.

Sage in Gold Starlight retails from Zappos Luxury for $298.

Gold platform high heels

And finally, for a solid-gold look on an insanely high platform, try this glitter and sequin peep toe from Milanoo. The price can vary so check their site out here.

Taxi shoes by Kate Spade New York

Kate Spade taxi shoes

Kate Spade New York has captured the epitome of New York – the New York taxi – in a shoe. But it’s not a taxi shoe, if you know what I mean.

Instead, Kate Spade has turned the brand’s spirited approach to making a manageable 4 inch heel out of the taxi motif that defines the city the never sleeps. Colorful and creative, fun, serious, playful, sophisticated…

The taxi shoe is called Lexie and it has a quality leather upper with sparkling sequins.

More than anything, Lexie reflects Kate Spade’s passion for sharing the colorful parts of the New York vibe that has long shaped the Kate Spade New York brand. Love New York, love these shoes.

Lexie  is available via Zappos for $398.

Taxi shoes

taxi shoes kate spade

Kardashian Kollection Shoes closes in Australia

Kardashian Kollection shoes 41Kardashian Kollection Shoes has quietly closed down just two years after starting up.

The shoe line was launched in Australia in November 2013 as the inaugural shoe collection of Kourtney Kardashian, Kim Kardashian West and Khloé Kardashian.  At the time it was said to encompass “dramatic, sexy heels, show-stopping wedges, stunning flats and chic boots.”

While it lasted, Kardashian Shoes sold product not only through its own website but also through Australian fashion website such as The Iconic and Style Tread.  The Kardashian Shoes were even available via Australian retail giant David Jones.

Yet in early in 2016 the label quietly closed down. The website directed viewers to the site of another Australian shoe label RMK, which says it was responsible for bringing the Kardashian shoe collection to Australia. No shoes from the collection are available on the RMK website.

Kardashian Kollection shoes is closed

Kardashian Shoes is not the only Kardashian fashion project to take a hit recently. In 2015, retailer Sears stopped offering items in the Kardashian Kollection in its stores. The mutual decision ended an exclusive department store collaboration that had begun in 2011.

A Kim Kardashian solo project has also had difficulties. In 2009, Legalzoom.com founders Robert Shapiro and Brian Lee partnered with Kim on the launch of ShoeDazzle.com, an e-commerce network offering a monthly membership for $39 shoes chosen by a stylist.

After the label encountered numerous challenges, Rachael Zoe took over from Kim as “Chief Stylist” at ShoeDazzle in January 2013. ShoeDazzle ultimately merged with one of its biggest competitors JustFab in August 2013, following months of negotiations.

Following these, the closure of Kardashian Kollection Shoes in Australia is perhaps not entirely surprising. The site last posted on its Instagram account well over a year before it closed, and it made only 42 posts in total. No other social media channels were dedicated to the shoe label.

In January this year Kardashian Kollection Shoes was advertising 40% off everything. Now only a handful of the shoes are available online for purchase through third party retailers. It seems the writing was on the wall.

ShoeDazzle high heels

So why has the attempts to bring the Kardashian fashion empire to the masses? The trouble is that it is hard to do designer fashion at bargain basement prices.

When the shoe collection launched, publicity lauded the Kardashian sisters as “revered worldwide as trendsetters and fashion leaders, their striking and unique style making them the most searched sisters on the internet.” But they didn’t get that reputation by wearing cheap clothes.

The Kardashian shoe line, for all its celebrity endorsement power, was just a collection of cheap-looking high heels which were not particularly cheap to buy. The shoes were not made of leather – they had manmade uppers – and cost between $99 and $139 per pair.

In the highly competitive field of women’s footwear, it was not difficult to see that better value and style could be found elsewhere. It now seems that shoppers have voted with their feet.