Genders merged at Milan footwear show Micam last week, as women's and men's footwear styles drew inspiration from each other for autumn 07.
Tough and raw was the overwhelming message, with workwear-inspired boots for both sexes roughening up the buying mood. For independent buyers the trend is good news - the heavier soles, both cleated and clean, with weathered suede uppers and beaten finishes, will prove tough for non-specialist clothing retailers to replicate in volume and at low cost.
Another season of strong repeat orders on patent women's footwear suggests there is still margin mileage to be made on the finish. And while the metallics trend was obvious, it was not as prolific as expected, with coloured suede, two-tone details and patent piping providing variations on the theme.
Men's uppers had sparkle and shine, while women's footwear took a more masculine twist. The trend for buckles found its feet this season, with buckle fastenings deployed on both men's and women's styles in most silhouettes.
Exaggerated golf fringing and tassels gave women's shoes an eccentric look, and a feminine take on brogue-styled footwear tuned in to the androgynous trends that were popular on the catwalks. Buttons and disc details nodded to an emerging mod trend, with streamlined 1960s Mary Quant-inspired footwear shapes featuring at several brands.
Purple made a splash in every shade from violet to aubergine, an evolution from the blue tones seen last season, and the colour was being talked up by buyers for its commercial potential. Alongside this, grey was again a big story for both men's and women's styles.
Perhaps the biggest surprise at Micam was the lack of clear trends in the tall boot category. Long-leg styles made an appearance mainly in riding boot form, but not as consistently across brands as expected. Instead, Yves Saint Laurent-inspired tight ankle boots and knee-high lace ups proved popular. But buyers were reluctant to commit following the tough season last year, when many formal knee-length styles were left languishing on Sale shelves.
From durable paratrooper-style boots with rivets and hooks to distressed heavy-soled desert boots, workwear was the clear theme at Micam. Men's styles led the way, although the look also seeped into the women's market via androgynous lace-up designs. This trend is likely to prove popular among consumers as they move away from value product towards more durable, long-lasting footwear.
Taking a cue from functional military styling, buckles were key on both men's and women's footwear at Micam. Used traditionally for simplicity and durability, here the trend was combined with the prevalent workwear-inspired theme, with buckles used both as fastenings and purely for decoration. From biker boots and ankle-strap pumps to more dandy-esque styles, the look made its mark across a variety of silhouettes.
Subtler patent piping on last edging and lace beds indicated a move away from all-over patent finishes towards more selective interpretations for autumn 07. Although patent styles were still proving popular, these more subtle looks provided a colour contrast and a two-tone effect, which created an interesting point of difference across round-toed platforms, T-bar pumps and men's lace-up styles.
WHAT THE BUYERS THOUGHT
Nick Chalkley, head of fashion accessories, and Diane Knight, central buyer for women's shoes, John Lewis. "We come twice a year to Micam and it is the best fair. There is a great mix of branded and own brands on show. Workwear and the Western and biker boot look is strong, and it is still all about coloured patent and suede. Metallics are still strong and they always sell well."
Catherine Timmins, buyer, and Caroline Bell, assistant buyer for womenswear, Wynsors World of Shoes. "This show is late in the buying season so we are here just to check that we haven't missed out on anything. It's mainly a confirmation trip for us. We stopped going to GDS two years ago, so coming to Micam gives us a general round-up of what's happening in the market."
Erica Jackson product developer, Ted Baker Footwear. "This is my first visit to Micam. I'm looking to source new factories in Italy and I have seen several that look interesting. We do most of our production in Spain at the moment, but we are looking to move some of it to Italy in the future. Italian-made shoes always prove popular in the US market."
Buttons and balls
Spherical detailing featured across a variety of brands at Micam. Discs, buttons and balls were used on the vamp of toes and as side fastenings, offering an alternative to last season's glitzy gem embellishment. Victorian-style side-buttoned boots and mod-inspired 1960s looks included chunky discs or covered buttons, providing a simple way of adding unusual details, while underlining the move towards retro styling.
Tying in with what is being hailed as the clothing colour for autumn, purple footwear was on show in abundance in rich, regal tones that smacked of opulence and luxury. Buckled ankle-strapped pumps at Swear provided a contemporary interpretation, while embellished opera-style shoes offered classic, refined styling. Deeper shades are likely to be a big commercial hit, according to buyers, but steer clear of lilac - it may prove tricky for autumn.
WHAT THE BUYERS THOUGHT
Helen Povey, head of buying, and Mark Wilcock, men's buyer, Qube. "Neon is still popular in the young fashion halls, but for men's footwear it is still grey, black, brown, tan and green. On women's we've spotted medium wood-stack heels and soft, rounder toes. The glitzy bling look is popular but everybody is holding back on boots - they are nervous after poor sales last year."
Adam Schneider, assistant buyer, Debenhams. "I particularly like the workwear-inspired styles on show - they are the most commercial. Although it's a seasonal look, it's very wearable because the shoes are comfortable and resilient. It also has lots of mileage for autumn as consumers turn their backs on cheaper product in favour of more durable styles."
Sam Jones, buyer, Pied a Terre. "I thought the fair was good and consistent in terms of trends. Most of the people I saw were doing similar things, which is reassuring that you're on the right track, but could prove tricky if you're not buying into that look. The main trends for me are patent, a punk/mod look, blacks and purples, chunky heel shapes and platforms."