The First Step

Marshizan court shoesBy Shu Xie

Last night, in the lounge of Seviin, a bevy of shiny new shoes spoke to me. Seviin, if you can spot the Roman numeral for seven in the cleverly spelt name, is, perhaps to be expected, on the seventh storey of Tangs. Here, separated by two floors of car park space from the main department store, is a level dedicated to looking good. Rather than sell you merchandise, they offer services that are sometimes known collectively as pampering. It’s a temple complex dedicated to the worship of beauty. A hair salon and several beauty parlours border the lounge that had now become a room for a collection of shoes—six styles to be precise. Imbibing the air of fragrant wellness, these shoes sat singly atop boxes that looked like they’re big enough to house size 15 Air Jourdans. Each shoe was as composed as playground slides not bothered by the demands of active children, until delighted guests thronged the space.

Did I say the shoes were talking to me? Shoes do that: they speak; they articulate a language that only the admirer understands. Sometimes it’s an outburst; sometimes it’s just speaking glances. Once you’re engaged, though, they keep chatting with you. The dialogue could be a life-long discourse. I thought these shoes spoke to me, but as it turned out, they were speaking to someone else—a petite girl in a bustier-jump suit of liquid silk in watery pink. She understood what the statuesque heel was saying to her. She picked it up as if it was a chalice of gold. She slipped her right foot into the shoe as if immersing into a bath of nard. And she wasn’t the only one taking a dip. Others too were participating in the ritual.

Marshizan Angullia shoesMashizan ‘Angullia’ court shoes in gradated and glittered kid suede

The shoes were talking to me, I had thought, but they really weren’t. Or perhaps I didn’t completely understand. Shoes are like that: they baffle you with their overt and inexplicable beauty. And these are blessed shoes; they have the loveliness bestowed on them by their creator, Mashizan Masjum, a slim chap with similar built as Jimmy Choo. Unlike he, whose name rhymes with shoe, Mr Masjum is a recent footwear designer. He was, and still is, a broadcast professional. Going behind the camera as well as producing, I overheard, were not his true calling, shoes are. And fate, as those of you who know about such things can guess, would intervene. And it did in Florence, coincidentally a shoe-making city that dates back to the 17th Century. The apprenticeship that Mr Masjum soon embarked on was with 77-year-old “master cobbler” Angelo Imperatrice, reportedly one of Italy’s last few shoe artisans, who teaches at the Accademia Riaci, a respected institute of arts as well as craft. Mr Masjum was also trained by Ilaria Papucci, formerly a shoe designer with Salvatore Ferragamo.

His credential is impressive, someone told me. Credentials don’t spawn creativity—I remember a saying from my school-going days. I took a shoe—named Simona Simona (In Italian, Simona means ‘one who hears’ and the double proper nouns was used because Mr Masjum had met two inspiring same-name women in Rome), cupped its shank in my palm, and communicated with its sleek body. Simona Simona did not listen to me. Girls’ best friend after diamonds was indifferent to my overtures. I looked at its smooth eye-catching chatoyant patent upper, the neatly formed toe box with the gentle lift of the vamp. I held its heel and saw how well the counter sat on the heel seat. Simona Simona was nice to touch, but something something did not give.

Marshizan Angullia pony hairMashizan ‘Angullia’ court shoes in patent leather with pony hair

I could see much went into the making of the shoes. But as a first effort, it showed. Mr Masjum’s debut collection could not shake off its post-graduation-show enthusiasm. You sensed he hasn’t found his voice, even when camp was in the articulation (danglies centred in a cut-out heel, and, yes, like earrings!). Someone hilariously called it “kampong glam”, and it could be construed as wicked, but these shoes do not hint at the fact that they share the same factory as Dior and Saint Laurent shoes. High heels not only await the right feet, they look forward to the right dress. Since the likely time of their appearance is in the evening, Mashizan shoes should meet Ashely Isham gowns.

Flitting among the guests was Channel News Asia anchor Glenda Chong, whose feet were encased in a pair of shoes with the heel curved inwards so that a stub descends from the middle of the shank. It is reminiscent of something Madame de Pompadour might have won. Someone asked her how she managed to walk so steadily in them. She said gleefully, “It’s not hard.” The ex-model had not forgotten what she learnt in deportment class. These shoes, I was told later, were called Sayang, as in dondang sayang (love ballad), those cheeky exchanges of Malay pantun in song so popular among the Peranakans (Ms Chong herself a bona fide bibik!). And it is with love that her solicitor husband Justin Chan appeared not long after. In the presence of eager cameras, he went down on one knee, unbuckled Sayang, and replaced it with a pink court shoe encrusted with crystals on the counter and heel. It fit as Cinderella’s glass slippers did. Paling sesuai! Only this was really a Carrie and Mr Big moment.

Mashizan shoes, from SGD 688, are available exclusively at Tangs Orchard

Two Of A Kind: Pool Sliders Face-Off

Adidas vs Gucci slides

Top: Adidas ‘Adilette’ slide. Bottom: Gucci ‘Pursuit ’72 Slide’ sandal

Which came first? That shouldn’t be hard to guess, but for those whose retro-sense goes only as far back as 1990, when Tom Ford was installed as Gucci’s creative director, then it may require stating that the slippers seen here—now known as slide sandals, pool sliders, or simply slides—first appeared in 1972, when Adidas introduced the ‘Adilette’. Back then, these were thought to be for use in the bathroom or, worse, a descendant of the cha kiak—wooden clogs from a bygone era—that mothers gladly pointed out. Yet, there was something so anti-establishment about them, an alluring counterpoint to the favoured flip-flops of the time, that they caused a mini craze.

Gucci’s, as far as we can remember, appeared in June last year, when they released a white version of the one above. The fact that this style is called ‘Pursuit ’72 Slide’ suggests that Gucci is not even thinly veiling its homage to the Adilette. Just look at the placement of the brand name! In their compositions, these made-in-Italy slippers are not so different from Adidas’s made-in-China ones. Even Gucci’s upper is synthetic, rather than leather. But with Gucci’s distinctive coloured bands—red-and-green—that are inspired by saddle girths of horseback riding, these should have as much prestige as anything with their repeated interlocking Gs.

Adilette SS 2015 @ adidas OriginalsThe current season’s Adilette slides at adidas Originals stores

There’s no denying that luxury brands are increasingly taking their cues from athletic brands, specifically where footwear is concerned. Gucci, in this instance, does not only want to dress your feet for the office or for a date, they, too, want your soles atop their sliders so that you don’t need to go pick your free copy of Today in generic flip-flops. Desiring to cover all categories of footwear is understandable since a business will find all means to grow, but the need for luxury brands to ape the product offering of sports brands is curious. You won’t find Adidas doing leather horse-bit loafers to capture the hearts of fashionable urbanites. Sure, they have their Princetown loafers, as well as those colourful penny loafers conceived in collaboration with Jeremy Scott, but these have a sports aspect to them. Or in more marketable parlance, they’re hybrids.

In Gucci’s heydays, many of their products, from bags to shoes, set the trend, and were much looked at by lower-market brands for inspiration. These days, the reverse is too noticeable to ignore. The bubble up effect is truly effervescent.

Adidas ‘Adilette’ slides, SGD49, are available at adidas Original stores. Gucci ‘Pursuit ’72 Slide’, SGD220, is available at Gucci, The Paragon