Views from the Margiela White Leather Sculptural Heel

Creative Director John Galliano Revives a Long-Lost Youth Culture Fixture

New Icons celebrates the stories behind particularly notable pieces from this season.

A woman walks into a store, takes a deep breath, and asks, “You wouldn’t happen to sell shoes that challenge sexist norms without making my ankles look fat, would you?”

The clerk, immediately feeling some type of way, looks around and responds, “Check the back.” The woman scours the store, passing over boots, stilettos, and sneakers. She is looking for something she has never seen—personality cues, to be exact. At the far back, around a corner, she finds a shoe that, in true deconstructionist form, disregards the archetypal standards of fit, form, and function. It is a classic take on futurism, with white leather and a heel that protrudes backwards in a fashion​​ reminiscent of aerocars driven by the Jetsons. She tries the shoes on, then immediately proceeds to check her horoscope. She​ ​is ​so lit by the affirmation of her discovery and​ that today of all days, she​ would ​have Jupiter in her ninth house of prosperity. She has no idea what that means, but takes the plunge because, as her horoscope said yesterday, “Opportunity rarely knocks twice.”

Introduced into the 1950s fashion sphere as a kind of “stiletto-in-training,” kitten heels were originally designed for teenagers who had aged out of flats, but were not quite ready to don a pair of four-inch heels. 60 years later, the instant gratification of platforms and spike heels has eclipsed the kitten’s place as a youth culture fixture. Paying homage to this forgotten coming-of-age style, Maison Margiela’s interpretation of this stalwart negates its current stigma as your mother’s shoe. Instead, it boasts an exaggerated “Ooh girl, what’s that?” sensibility that could only be achieved by the theatrical hand of John Galliano. The affectionate shaping of the rounded white seat at the back of the shoe speaks to his penchant for romanticism, adding a soft flair to the hard, chiseled implications of classical sculpture present in the textured leather. The subtlety of this dichotomy is just as uncompromising as the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Galliano’s fourth season as creative director of Margiela sees a move toward using the classical as a way to reverse our expectations. These elements are evident from duplicitous silk organza trench coats to layered off-the-shoulder poplin shirts, but ultimately through a fanciful femininity that is all Galliano.

With their landmark shoe of the Spring/Summer 2016 collection, Maison Margiela has proven that, even after multiple falls from grace, kitten heels, too, have nine lives. The brand’s latest venture into attired irony flips our perception on its head, catapulting these “trainer heels” into fashion’s most far-reaching orbit of sophistication. What was once seen as a safe footwear choice is now revered as a short stride into the bold and unconventional. No one has ever looked so tall standing 0.3 inches off the ground.

Text: Reva Ochuba
Photography: Haw-lin Services