There are fashion brands that design shoes, and then there are shoe designers, the latter being the dedicated people who focus on nothing else but making beautiful things for our feet. While I'll often wax lyrical on the merits of Miu Mius and Pradas that are made in Italy (just one of my favourite footwear topics), there's always something to be said for someone who decides to charge forth as a cordwainer and a cordwainer alone. Whether it's a savvy shoe maestro noticing a gap in the market to be filled with something special or a tireless trooper spending decades perfecting the ultimate pair of black courts, we salute each and every one of them.
These days there are countless startup shoe labels (some of my new favourites include Neous, Dorateymur and Aeyde), but some of the most established names never lose popularity. Take the enduring effect of Christian Louboutin's red soles or the classic beauty of a pair of Manolo Blahnik slingbacks. Keep reading to see the top 10 shoe designers in the world today.
Christian Louboutin creates shoes for girls who favour style over practicality, with one of his most repeated quotes being "I would hate for someone to look at my shoes and say, 'Oh my god! They look so comfortable.'" You'll always be able to recognise a pair of Louboutins from the famous red sole, true, but elegant, classic and curvy shapes—such as the signature stiletto-heeled Pigalle here—can also be easily pinpointed to this French designer.
If any one man knows exactly what women want on their feet, it's Manolo Blahnik. The Spanish footwear designer was industry famous long before the girls on SATC cottoned onto his ultra-luxe creations, but the createur has experienced yet another resurgence recently. Whether teaming up with Rihanna, finding his classic crystal-embellished pumps on the feet of all bloggers or being enlisted by Vetements for a collaboration, at 74, he shows no sign of slowing down.
When Colombian shoe designer Edgardo Osorio first hit the scene a few years ago, he kick-started a major trend: Every other designer and store couldn't help but be inspired by his signature lace-up, pointed-toe flats and heels. The fine, strappy creations are still selling well today—and the label continues to be just as influential with a huge range of statement shoes on offer.
Although Weitzman himself is now retiring from the design part of his huge footwear business, his range of pull-on boots and barely there Nudist sandals will always be legendary for celebrities, A-list stylists and girls who have invested time and again in these modern classics. Thanks to the mid-range price point, Weitzman's clever creations have always felt more accessible yet still luxurious.
Considering the designer learned the shoe trade from one of the best-known names in the business—his father, Sergio Rossi—it's no wonder Gianvito's wares are loved for incredible quality, fit and noticeably more streamlined aesthetic.
In just over 10 years, British footwear designer Nicholas Kirkwood can be credited with many an iconic shoe—from his first wave of futuristic platform sandals via a series of iterations on the Beya loafers to his continued interest in pearl embellishments (now featuring on multiple styles, including these killer sandals), he's constantly reinventing his aesthetic.
London-based Charlotte Dellal is the glamorous founder of Charlotte Olympia's fun footwear (and now handbag) creations. Dellal's first smash hit came in the form of super-high platform stilettos (still a best seller to date), but it's the Kitty flats that you'll spot from fifty paces—everyone from our best fashion friends to Alexa Chung has a pair.
Rupert Sanderson's ladylike heels have been invested in by celebrities, royalty, society girls and so many more women across the globe: Kate Middleton is perhaps the most high-profile fan, as she often chooses Sanderson's timeless court shoes in suede finishes. The brand's party shoes are just as good—take these pink pumps for starters.
Brazilian shoe designer Alexandre Birman has seen countless celebrities wear his delicate heels on the red carpet, as from Gisele Bündchen to Diane Kruger and Olivia Culpo, many A-list feet have fallen for these pretty, bow-fronted Clarita sandals that now come in various colourways, heel shapes and heights.
If fantastical, conversation-starting and super-sassy shoes are your thing, then Sophia Webster is to answer all your footwear prayers. From diamantés to pom-poms, neon thigh-high gladiators to ballet flats with butterfly wings, this London-based shoe designer celebrates a more is more outlook. And now, for the real superfans out there, Webster even creates children's shoes.