Luxury

The Gucci Effect: The Rise Of The Flat

Brogues and sneakers are sending the stiletto to the back of the wardrobe.

By Damien Woolnough

Luxury

Brogues and sneakers are sending the stiletto to the back of the wardrobe.

By Damien Woolnough

The high heel was once seen as an essential tool in the arsenal of the working woman but in recent years it has surrendered its back breaking power to the humble flat. From the ’40s to the noughties, when the incomprehensible Carrie Bradshaw tottered down the streets of Sex and the City’s New York in countless Manolo Blahniks and Christian Louboutins, the heel exuded glamour and the type of sensual power found in Helmut Newton’s most erotic photographs.

Now, unless your profession is the world’s oldest, “sensual power” and “glamour” are no longer corporate goals that we find comfortable. What women are finding comfortable are flats.

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Flats started to filter down from the front row to the business class footrest when Philo at Celine matched mannish shoes with wide-legged pants and ultra-feminine skirts. Fashion editors jumped on the look because it’s the way they have been dressing for years. The likes of Grace Coddington and Tonne Goodman at US Vogue and Nicole Bonython in Australia are rarely seen walking at high altitudes. Pinning hems, chasing models and moving equipment requires something more serviceable.

Apart from being practical, brogues fit into the established codes of corporate culture but add a slight subversion when paired with an asymmetrical pleated skirt or military-inspired wrap dress.

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The unstoppable sneaker trend has probably done more than fallen arches in halting the spread of high heels as classic white lace-ups and navy numbers became the footwear uniform of choice for creative types. The sleek silhouette of Common Projects’ sneakers is familiar to fans of Jennifer Aniston’s footwear along with countless architects and graphic designers. The corporate sneakers’ pioneers produce a broad palette but basic black is their best offering.

Now the sneaker trend is picking up speed with designer’s drawing attention to new bulkier styles, rather than camouflaging them with a minimalist approach. Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga has tapped the Working Girl look of the ’80s carried off with aplomb by a young Melanie Griffiths. Today these sneakers are worn during the working day, rather than hidden in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet.

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While many of the high heels’ overt connotations are out of fashion, vertical assistance is a classic for shorter women valiantly reaching for the next rung on the corporate ladder. The mid-heel on flat styles lengthens shorter legs without hindering your ability to race to the elevator before that door closes.

Aesthetic magpie Alessandro Michele at Gucci has become the most watched and copied footwear designer with his pear-encrusted mid-heels on loafer styles. This a statement shoe that carefully balances being functional with being fabulous.

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Damien Woolnough is one of Australia’s leading fashion critics. Now founder and editor-in-chief of Marry The Man, Woolnough has written for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, In Style, GQ, Elle and Marie Claire. 

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