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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Village by MIA

It takes a ... well, you know: Village by MIA weaves simple lines for a clean look.

Sometimes we wonder at the provenance of a shoe's name. Village? Were the designers at MIA inspired by country living, peasants, field labor, M. Night Shyamalan? Movies aside, the stripped-down, clean lines of the Village would certainly support that. Somewhat. On closer inspection we notice the three-strap construction meets at a common joint under the ankle and splays out in sophisticated parabolas like the Sydney Opera House. Perhaps the Village we're really thinking of is a bit more of the Internet variety – the "global village" of the '90s.

Look at us. Our laptops and smart phones and on-demand Netflix and, what, iPads? Are we ever not connected? We're going to think of the Village as inspired by the escape of the digital citizen to those fabled remote backroads where wi-fi is some kind of farm instrument and the airwaves are unstained by Bluetooth. This place does not actually exist for us, but the look can.

The Village is simple function raised to a Bauhuasian standards of beauty. It is spare and unadorned. It does not come with GPS. But the graceful sweep of its leather straps is elegant and placed to carefully divide and highlight the foot: the toe, the arch, the ankle, the heel, the calf.

Use Village accordingly. Build a summer outfit in sections that are easy and elegant and in support of showing off you. The combined effect of so much thoughtfulness will create that je ne sais quoi that draws people to you for no particular reason, save that you simply look so ... put-together. Dress simply and carry a lot of electronics. We're sanguine at the confluence of technology and our lives ... as long as we dress for it appropriately.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kira Low Top by Frye

Summer Blues: Frye's Kira low top and a new Tano bag in summer's hot hue.

We've always loved Frye for their timeless campus and harness boots. The best thing about the cold season is the opportunity to weather our campus and harness boots a little bit more (or pick up a new pair). So it came as a surprise to receive the Kira – a low-top leather sneaker in three sophisticated colors: gray, lavender and sapphire (pictured). A pleasant surprise, we should add. Frye's quality leather and construction in a casual low kick? Sold, three times over.

We've got plenty of wedges, mocs, pumps with four-inch heels, OTK boots and more, but what we're missing is what has just arrived: a way to be classy and casual – that broken-in look of a well-washed faded tee, a Steven Alan shirt, J Crew chinos. That rumpled, hammock chic we can take to the streets (or just the grocery) without looking the slob.

Kira's a straightforward lace-up. The leather upper is stamped with the "Double-F" Frye logo. The rubber soles are slightly distressed to create a rugged city-sneaker. She makes for the ultimate easy, casual outfit. We've paired it above with the Tano 4543 in Twilight to finish the look.This rich, vibrant blue is cropping up across collections. We wouldn't go so far as to call it a trend, but it's a welcome addition to this summer's lineup of natural materials, hybrid sandals, wedges and the like. It makes a great contrast to summer whites. If you want a gentler color match, the gray and lavender versions provide a softer ensemble.

Summer's bright and fun. We're glad that Frye has added rich, well-thought-out colors in a casual shoe that doesn't sacrifice style. The Kira is a must-have, for summer and for any laid-back activity year-round.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jade by Franco Sarto

Faux-getaboutit: The Jade by Franco Sarto blends fake snake, wood and stone to create a genuine wonder for your foot.

At first blush, this may look like just another gladiator-style sandal and maybe that's its strength: it lowers your guard so it can suckerpunch you with smart details. Such as: criss-crossing bands of faux snake print (in cuoio and roccia, pictured) and a strand of embellishments along the foot top. These deserve some further inspection. Beveled like the bottom of a princess-cut diamond sit three octagonal "gems" that have been colored and striated to resemble wood grain. In between these are a faux turquoise stone and a pair of antiqued bronze pyramid studs.

So we have fake snake, fake gems cut like diamonds but modeled like wood, an un-turquoise and some studs to boot. Imposter, you cry? Nay, say we: the real deal! Jade's a shoe that makes the most of natural textures without harvesting those raw materials. And as we write this on Earth Day, we're thinking that's rather apropos.

Did we mention it also looks like heaven on your foot? That's right: heaven – like God leaned down and said, "No, this is what we're wearing up Here ... That's it." God also probably recommended you wear them with shorts, as do we. Cuff up or pair with a short, fun skirt (denim's an option). Jade's variety within a fairly natural palette make it a fab neutral, go-to shoe. It has personality, yet remains easy to wear. Pair with wooden bangles and walk out the door! Best yet? Under $75. Yep.

The Jade is part of the Franco Sarto Artist series – a tightly-knit collection with a limited production run and greater focus on ornamentation and style. The collection supports the maestro's credo, which we can really get behind:

"Beautiful shoes that make every woman feel beautiful ... this is my passion."

Couldn't have said it better ourselves.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Maddie by House of Harlow 1960

In the House: Maddie by Nicole Richie House of Harlow 1960 rules the scene.

Let's just get it out of our system: Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie – deep breath and – Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie, Nicole Richie.

We think she's great too. But we have shoes to discuss people! Yes? Great! Because the Maddie is great. House of Harlow's collection is a tight and smart roundup of '60s and '70s era styling with modern touches for a look that's contemporary, which is to say aware of its roots without being too ironic about it. The Maddie is a moccasin par excellence. The ankle-high suede upper is unlined – the perfect summer-weight top that easily folds down for a casual feel. A padded leather footbed makes it comfortable. A leather thong at the ankle can wrap and tie to influence your look. And it's all pieced together with same-colored whipstitching. And then, the beading.

We mean, the beading. This moc's beading is excessive, which is to say just enough. It harkens both to native American patternwork and the decadence of '60s vintage Bohemian. But can't you also see these at Studio 54 with short-shorts? They also work perfectly today with slouched kneehighs, leggings or even denim. Ultimately, though, what these moccasins offer is the perfect excuse to go out and buy a fabulous summer skirt. Show. Off. Those. Legs!

The secret beauty of Maddie is the mixture of opaque and translucent beads. Light striking the upper bounces off some and through others for a complex sparkle and glitter that flashes like your own personal set of disco balls. A Navajo diamond pattern in the sole (topped with a House of Harlow logo in the heel, natch) drive the theme home. Maddie is a summer dream – casual, easy, fun – topped up with serious glamour and quality construction. The result is a warm weather moc that will add personality and charm to your look, effortlessly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

5272 Sandal by Vic Matie

The Best of Both Worlds: Vic Matie's 5272 makes the most of sandals and booties.

Hybrids. We love them on the road (Hi, Prius!), we love them in the grocery (tangelos, anyone?) and we especially love them as pets (poodle + well, anything). So why not on our feet? That is what we imagine the big brains at Vic Matie were pondering when they engineered the 5272.

Clunky name aside, this sandal is pure sophisticate. The three-inch heel height is perfect for walking the city (and reducing your carbon footprint – très chic). It comes in black, but we're really responding to the taupe, which is very warm, almost a dusky lavender. The stacked leather heel has a sleek swooping line arcing from heel to ground – a study in motion. This contrasts nicely with the unstructured upper which bells and folds at a whim and is kept in check by crossed straps that buckle in the back.

The ultimate detail of this shoe, however, is the leather. It's not merely quality, it's, like, way quality. In the vein of a physical pinstripe or a horizontal corduroy, the upper has been sliced with razors for an amazing, louvered texture that looks like slubbed, roughed suede or canvas but feels like pure heaven.

We're bandying about ideas for outfits. It's hard. It's an unseasonable eighty degrees in Chicago, so our tendancy is to wear as little as possible. Then maybe a little less. A word does recur. We keep stopping on "flowy." Regardless of whether that is an actual word, we're sure you get the gist. High-waisted or short-shorts underneath a flowing, lightweight cotton or linen top. You can even put it over skinny jeans for a transitional outfit. This plays up the un/structure of the 5272 sandal and lends you a balanced look that's part structure, part organic flow and all very, very appealing. Now that's a hybrid we can mix it with.

For larger sizes, visit Barefoot Tess Barefoot Tess for larger sizes.