Nakedness Is Everywhere in Fashion, Even the Heel of a Shoe

All fashion week, we will be spotlighting the small details we saw on the runways that surprised or delighted us: Bring on the portable fog machines and antique fork jewelry.

PARIS — Blink and you might have missed one of the most explicit homages to Azzedine Alaïa by his design successor, Pieter Mulier, during the brand’s latest fashion show.

But there they were, catching the light in gold or patent black: a miniature rendering of two slightly crossed legs, jabbing the floor as the heel of a stiletto sandal — with the same kind of semi-subtle eroticism as the single pearl nipple ring attached over the turtleneck bodysuit on the first model to walk the runway Sunday night.

From afar, the heel looked like a bit like a devil’s forked tongue. Up close, it was less sinister — just two glossy, thin legs descending from a bare derrière positioned right below the wearer’s heel — but still a little surreal: legs holding up a leg. Each of the round-toed sandals was secured with four thin and buckled ankle straps.

But the shoes also played a fairly important role in the collection, as Mr. Mulier continued to establish a balance between his own work and Azzedine Alaïa’s legacy of sensual couture. In a news release, the brand pointed to the shoe specifically as proof that the founding designer, who died in 2017, was “a constant inspiration, one that is always alive.”

The heel originally was designed in 1991 by Alaïa and Raymond Massaro, a French boot-making legend. The famous two-tone Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel sandal in beige, capped with a black toe? That was also developed by Maison Massaro in the late 1950s. (In 2002, the business was added to the métiers d’art craft shops owned by Chanel.)

That low-heel conservative classic was the exact opposite of another famous Massaro creation: a teetering-on-spikes platform heel made for Jean Paul Gaultier in 1993, inspired by football cleats and imbued with the ability to strike fear into the hearts of even the most experienced high-heel wearer. The cleats shoe, too, was recently revived.

And so archival fashion gets another win. Even if images of the original Alaïa shoe are still flagged on at least one major image website as “adult content.”



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