It was probably only a matter of time. Once the Metropolitan Museum announced that the subject for the Costume Institute’s exhibition of the year, which is launched in May at the fashion world’s gala of the year, would be “Punk”, there was no question: designers had to start thinking of what they could offer attendees to wear.
In Milan, both Donatella Versace at Versace and Frida Giannini at Gucci overtly referenced the theme, with the former naming her collection after a combination of Versace and punk (“Vunk”) and spiking her vinyl and leather ready-to-wear with heavy-metal nails and chains; and the latter name-checking fetish as an inspiration for her collection, from cuffs to fishnet stockings.
It was off the catwalks, however, that the kinky truly became – well, dominant. From Tod’s first-ever spiky patent leather booties, the heel sharp enough to impale a recalcitrant suitor and dotted with a rash of glossy rivets, to Jimmy Choo’s handcuff bag and ankle-strap complete with key, the accessories brands in Milan embraced the underground. This might sounds odd, but as Sandra Choi, newly christened sole creative director of Jimmy Choo noted, she had found inspiration in the work of Helmut Newton, who “had an almost fetishist obsession with the female form, but the subject was never portrayed as vulnerable; she was always strong, powerful and in control”.
Indeed, power was the subtext in these shoes (and bags). At Casadei, for example, where the collection was entitled “Back to Black”, designer Cesare Casadei widened his signature “blade” heel, christening it the “#2”, the better to support a boot of buckled black straps that climbed from toe-tip to knee; at Sergio Rossi, Francesco Russo exposed the internal construction of the shoe to emphasise the arch in a gilded cage; and at Brian Atwood, a hinged metal carapace delineated the back of a black suede platform to make what Atwood termed an “exit shoe”: the most effective footwear for flouncing out the door.
Meanwhile, there was a calf’s worth of corsetry lacing on the back of Giorgia Caovilla’s suede-and-leather high-heeled cuissard boot, and studs on René Caovilla’s platform sandal, albeit winking black crystals; there’s only so far into the netherland a red-carpet brand can go (and in case you were wondering, the two designers are related, but the brands are separate).
Studs also punctured Furla’s newly tough version of their best-selling plastic “Candy” bag, as well as the mini-Candy, aka the “Cookie” – just enough to give the sweetness a hard-rock edge.
For those whose lifestyle is Venus-in-furs enough already, however, there was Valextra’s new steel-shaded abuse-resistant suede: the product of almost two years of research, it can be stomped, splashed, and crushed with almost no visible effect. Even in the red-carpet melee of the Met Ball.