Nude is the new black, at least when it comes to shoes this summer. Thanks to the combination of red-carpet style and the Duchess of Cambridge, whose addiction to a pair of LK Bennett’s nude “Sledge” courts with 11cm heels has been well-documented, the rest of the world has finally woken up to the leg-lengthening, foot-shrinking properties of the style.
“We first introduced taupe to answer our customer’s need for a summer alternative to black,” explains LK Bennett’s product director, Kim Saint. “It quickly became such an essential colour we now offer it all year round.” British retailer Marks and Spencer has sold 350,000 pairs of a similar court style since last summer.
“Besides giving a woman an extra lift, nude shoes disappear like magic against the skin, which provokes an illusion that is really beautiful,” says shoe designer Christian Louboutin, who is about to roll out a capsule collection entitled “The Nudes”, featuring signature showgirl-inspired styles in five different skin shades, including the Flo, Louboutin’s five-inch (12cm) heeled peep-toe, the Batignolle (with toes sharpened almost to a point), the Fifi pump and the Vendome platform peep-toe.
“You have the feeling that the woman is being drawn like a sketch,” says Louboutin. “Nude elongates your leg without taking space away from the body.” Designer L’Wren Scott, who began her career styling such celebrities as Ellen Barkin and Sarah Jessica Parker, is famous for advising all her clients to wear nude shoes for their public appearances to create a trompe l'oeil endless-leg effect. For this reason, says Louboutin, stay away from socks or black stockings with nudes, which “kills the effect”.
“I have always been interested in the concept of nude, not just as one but various colours of skin,” says Louboutin. “When you travel you realise that nude does not mean the same thing in every country. Mostly when people talk of nudes they are talking of their own colour of skin.”
“I tend to refer to nude as ‘blush’ as I think it gives more of a feminine feel,” says Charlotte Olympia, whose signature “Dolly” platforms now come in said tone.
“Nude is rude and nude is now!” declares Rupert Sanderson, whose spring/summer 2013 bestseller “Elba”, a nude court, is proving a popular celebrity reach-for on the red carpet. The Brit shoe guru believes neutral hues serve to accentuate line and silhouette, mirroring his less-is-more aesthetic.
“I have been doing nude shoes for years,” says Manolo Blahnik, whose duo-strap (ankle and toe) nude is a long-running signature, especially of US Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who models them every July couture and September ready-to-wear season. “They go with any outfit, are flattering, and are so easy to wear.” Indeed, Carolyn Langenhoff, personal shopping manager of Fenwick department store on London’s New Bond Street, suggests that nude shoes are the best partner for “this season’s florals and rich blues”.
At Jimmy Choo, which offers both a lace ankle bootie and a perforated nude-toned biker boot, creative director Sandra Choi goes even further. “As well as being an alternative to black they counterbalance anything colourful or patterned,” she says. “The are the modern girl’s equivalent of a little black dress.”