As you have likely heard countless times over the last few weeks, we are living in unprecedented times. Though that does not mean we should cease to seek joy in the small things, like say, for example, an exceptionally beautiful pair of shoes.
In times like these, Who What Wear UK seeks to provide some light relief, and if Carrie Bradshaw taught us anything, it is certainly that shoes can spark joy. With this in mind, we spoke to seven designers—including Jane Frances of Dear Frances, Vanissa Antonious of Neous and Valentina Bezuhanova of By FAR—about what makes a really great pair of shoes, in an effort to understand how to curate a collection that will not only provide aesthetic beauty but also longevity and comfort.
Of course, many of the designers below stressed the importance of investing in quality footwear and outlined the details which prove a shoe is well made—whether it be leather soles or hand-stitching. From It labels to fashion favourites, keep scrolling for seven designers' advice on what makes a really great pair of shoes.
“You either go for an amazing timeless black mule or you go for super special craftsmanship with colourful embellishments and statement pop of colour. You should invest in a handmade pair of shoes where the designer and shoemaker have left their heart and soul, and you recognize yourself in the little details—custom-made heels, hand-embroidered stones, special hardware… It's all about the craftsmanship.” — Valentina Bezuhanova, cofounder of By FAR
"For me, it’s two things: the design and wearability, which is largely determined by the quality. We work with family-run factories in Italy where each component of the shoe is handmade by a small team of artisans who have over many years perfected their individual craft. We also work closely with these factories to source the best quality leather using by-products that are sustainably sourced. The better the leather, the easier it is to dye in bespoke colours like our Neous signature banana (a softer pastel yellow) and brick (a rich bright tan with more red than brown). These elements combined are what I look for." — Vanissa Antonious, founder and creative director of Neous
"Beautifully soft leather that also has a good body to ensure they are durable and long-lasting. Quality shoes will usually have real leather soles, which offers better comfort and long-term wear than synthetic soles. Luxury shoes will offer superior comfort, and you can tell if this has been addressed by the softness of the lining as well as the construction of the insole, which will be softly padded from heel to toe.
"Besides the quality of the materials, you can look for how the shoe is finished and any design details that show a level of craftsmanship, such as hand-stitching or hand details that are unique to each shoe. This shows that artisans have personally crafted and finished your shoes and there is nothing more telling of quality than that human touch." — Jane Frances, founder and creative director of Dear Frances
"The last needs to be really good and qualified because that's the most important thing about a shoe—both looking nice and being comfortable when you put your feet in." — Merve Manastir, cofounder and creative director of Manu Atelier
"Definitely the shape of the heel. The shape of the shoe must be balanced and fit the foot perfectly. Also, justifying the cost per wear." — Sunyuul Yie, creative director and CEO of Yuul Yie
"Comfort, for me, is the number one criteria for a great pair of shoes. As a woman designing for women, I know how transformative for the psyche it is to walk comfortably in a beautiful pair of shoes. This means the materials have to be of top quality, the heel needs to be perfectly balanced and the pitch finely tuned so you are standing up tall and straight, so as to protect your lower back. I always take these factors into consideration when architecturally building my Malones before adding all the magical aesthetic details." — Mary Alice Malone, founder and creative director of Malone Souliers
"The first quality you should look for in a pair of shoes is the 'vibe' you get from them. Your personality should shine through this specific accessory and make you feel comfortable and confident in yourself." — Arianna Casadei, founder of Casadei