7 INSIGHTS ON HEELS YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED.

I love all shoes under one condition: They must have heels. In other words you won’t find ballerinas in my wardrobe and the only flats I own are sport and running shoes. High heels force one to walk tall and make more of one’s outfit.

Yes, yes, I know that high heels have all sorts of disadvantages but if one is obsessed… Before I dwell about them I will tell you something about the heels’ past.

The History of Heels

From what I read we know very little about the origin of heels but their history started more than 2000 years ago. What seems pretty clear though is that they first were invented for practical (yes, indeed!) reasons.

In ancient Egypt butchers wore shoes with heels to avoid walking in blood and the Mongolian horseman wore boots with heels since it was easier to keep the feet in the stirrups. I am not so sure about the latter since I also learned that the Mongolians did not use saddles at all so why should they need stirrups?

The first record of heels of being a fashionable accessory is is 1553 when Catherine de’ Medici married the Duke of Orléans. She wanted to look taller and therefore brought high heels from her hometown Florence to France where they quickly found a lot of fans. During the following century women wore 12-centimetre-heels. Unfortunately they were so uncomfortably “shaky” that these ladies depended on a walking stick to keep the balance. Along with the doom of the French monarchy these heels also vanished. I am not surprised. This takes me to the next chapter

7 Rules to Wear High Heels Right

If it comes to heels I have quite something to tell. In order to avoid bad buy I recommend the following:

  1. Stilettos with 12 centimetre (or more) heels are for special occasions.
    Period.
  2. Watch the anatomy of your foot.
    The French ladies could not walk in their shoes because as I suspect the streets were not what they are today and the shoes were anatomically wrong. All shoes should be comfortable but with high heels it is even more important. Make sure you feel the inner sole of the shoe on your entire foot. Often I observe “hollow space” between heel and toes. This puts far too much pressure on your toes, causes pain and looks awful because you cannot really walk in such shoes.
  3. High Heels are a matter of cost. Do not try to buy cheap.
    I once spoke to a shoe maker about this. She explained to me that heels are pre-fabricated in specific factories. The good ones are expensive; even for shoe makers. Moreover, the heel must be in the correct angle to the shoe itself. I (my feet, to be precise) found out that this is only the case with expensive shoes. Plus they are made of soft leather which makes them comfortable
  4. You want to wear the same pair of shoes all day, right?
    At least I do. Therefore it is important to know that high heels are not necessarily very thin ones. If you walk over cobblestone in heels you need stronger ones with a diameter of about 1.5 to 2 centimetres.
  5. Only buy the height you feel comfortable with.
    If you are already tall you might be happy with a tiny heel. Whatever your height do not buy any thing you already feel in the shop that you cannot make it more than an hour.
  6. Find a good shoe maker.
    Heels are very easy to damage since the possibilities to get stuck somewhere, rip of the rubber of the heel are endless. Only well-tended heels are elegant heels.
  7. If you climb the Mount Everest forget about heels.
    I hate to admit it but there are situations where high heels are – quite literally – a no go. If you go hiking “off the beaten tracks” wear shoes that allow you to do so. You don’t want your feet killing you since this will also be the end of your high heel career.

I am quite sure that many of you already shop according to these maxim. After all they come from common sense not from rocket science.

SHOES NOT MADE FOR WALKING.

Last week we spoke about sandals which is probably the oldest shoe model. This time it is about slippers. As the name suggest we are talking about shoes that are easy to put on. The downside is that they are not tough enough for real life but only made to be beautiful (according to the taste of the time).

Some History

Typically made of embroidered silk or brocade and decorated with precious jewels they clearly were a status symbol. The soles of slippers were often also made of textile or thin leader which means the feet would get wet from a single raindrop.

Red slippers made of silk-brocade have been the traditional footwear for bishops during a long time. When Elisabeth I was enthroned in 1559 silk slippers with heels were the latest fashion for women and men.

Only the working class had “real” shoes and it is says that Marie Antoinette had a servant whose only job it was to look after her 700 pairs of slippers. I don’t know if she also had other types of shoes and if they were tended by another person…

Modern Slippers

Slippers are still manufactured by many designers. However, they have become real shoes for real people.

Brands like Manolo Blahnik, Bally or Baldinini create exclusive models. And they are made for walking. In style!

INSIGHTS ON CINDERELLA, HER GLASS SHOE AND ME.

I am the living proof that Cinderella only exists in fairytales. Probably you remember that her glass shoe proved too small for all the would-be princesses in the kingdom. Or I must have been in the wrong realm. Given my shoe size (34 in Europe, 3.5 in the US) I promise it would have fit me.

You see, if everything had gone right I would not bother you with my literary creations but walk about the castle. And no; children’s shoes are no option; I am only wearing heels. Or would you suggest sneakers to Cinderella?

However, this does not impact my passion for shoes. Moreover, I share the belief that shoes tell something about the person wearing them. I’ll come to this in a minute.

Shoes have a very long history. At times, the fact of possessing shoes (or not) made the difference between poor and wealthy visible.

SANDALS FOR EVERYONE

The most ancient shoes found so far are sandals. In pharaonic Egypt simple workers had sandals with soles made of papyrus. In the grave of King Tutankhamun on the other hand archeologists found sandals that bore soldiers of Egypt’s rival army engraved in their sole. This literally enabled Tutankhamun to kick his enemies with every step. The young king also possessed a pair with golden ponds on the top in which ducks made of lapis lazuli “swim”. I have seen these shoes in the Egyptian National Museum and found the idea pretty amazing.

Roman soldiers wore sandals that were made of a single piece of leather while their empresses could only be satisfied with soles made of solid gold and straps decorated with jewels.

In Europe poor people wore wooden sandals until about 1200 AC. Later sandals more or less disappeared and only came back in a VERY different look and meaning in the roaring twenties. Nowadays they are available in all colours, heights (heel or no heel?) and shapes.

WHAT DO SANDALS TELL US?

I said before that shoes tell something about their wearer. They do, just with sandals the meanings are very different.

For monks of certain religions sandals were (or maybe still are) a symbol of modesty, after the French revolution the so called empire style that reminded to the glorious Roman Empire appeared and rich ladies wore flat sandals along with their pseudo-roman dresses. In the twenties, sandals were looked at as sexy and coquettish while the brand “Birkenstock” sells sandals under the flag of health.

WE WILL WALK ON

This is the first part of a shoe series. Next time we’ll speak about slippers. Originally, the most unpractical shoes ever made.

LIQUID GOLD. THE YEARS 2000 IN THE REALM OF PERFUME.

One of the most thought after ingredients for perfume is Oud. Oud is the scent of a tree known as Agarwood. Its dark resin only occurs in about 7% of the trees which makes Oud a very rare hence expensive substance.

Already in ancient times and in various cultures Oud has been used to cure illnesses and as perfume. In the Arabic world chips of this precious wood can still be bought on the market. They are slowly burned and the fragrant smoke spreads out and serves as a natural room scent.

INNOVATION

Given the high demand for the wood and habitat loss of the trees Agarwood has become very rare which of course skyrockets the price for Oud.

The French House Fragrance Du Bois specializes in exclusive scents based on Oud. They created according to their statement “the world’s largest database” of perfume that use Oud. I have this list in front of me and can tell that it comprises many hundreds names.

But more than that. Fragrance du Bois are aware of the situation and therefore created their own Agarwood plantations. So for every tree they harvest there is at least one replacement.

Of course there is a lot more to say about scents. Nevertheless, I will close the series Cents of a Century and think of something else for the coming weeks.

LE MALE. 1995.

In 1995 the fragrance “Le mâle” by Jean-Paul Gaultier came to the market. Its female counterpart appeared two years earlier.

To me the bottles are a brilliant example of how to wrap something as elusive as dreams. Icons of the 90ies so to speak.

For my researches for this article I visited Gauthier’s website. Designers normally have stylish websites but this one is absolutely stunning.

It is better than anything I could ever explain. Please CLICK HERE and have a look at it.  I just signed up for the newsletter and rest my case.
 

DONNA. 1984.


The House of Trussardi has been founded in 1911 by Dante Trussardi who became famous with luxurious gloves that soon became a status symbol all over the worlds.

Trussardi has a turbulent history that are closely linked to the family of Trussardi whose members still lead the enterprise.

Why using a Scent for Branding?

Trussardi Donna is a very “loud” scent so to speak. As soon as you wear it you notice the scent more than any other I know. Last time I was in a Trussardi boutique in Milan I smelled the perfume in the entire shop.

Some fashion labels also use their fragrances for branding. That is quite efficient since we never forget a scent.

Trussardi Donna. The Ingredients.

Trussardi Donna belongs to the chypre/floral olfactive family and consists of the following ingredients:

Top note

Mandarin blends in with floral note of hyacinth, ginger and coriander

Heart note

Flowers like ylang-ylang, rose and tuberose, spiced with carnation

Base note

Patchouli, cedar wood, labdanum and benzoin

A new edition

In 2011, for the 100st birthday of the company the scents “Donna” and “Uomo” were “re-invented”. According to Trussardi’s website the new scents “Donna EDT” is even fresher and more exciting than the original.

Let’s try and find out.
   

AZZARO POUR HOMME. 1978.

Although this fragrance came to the market already in the end of the seventies I still remember it lingering around ten years later. In my memory “Azzaro pour Homme” was the height of sophistication for the young guys. Even Azzaro’s website describes it as “masculine seduction”

“Azzaro pour Homme” is one of the scents that lasts “forever” and since it was affordable and sold by every discounter on the planet, one smelled it everywhere. It washed over the eighties, so to speak. It is said that smells are the type of information that lasts in our memories the longest. This might be true. Even today when I enter a shop and someone wears “Azzaro pour Homme” I can tell immediately.

Fougère

“Azzaro pour Homme” belongs to the so called family of “fougère” a notion that stems from the French word for fern.

Fougère is an important perfume group that mainly consists of the following components:

  • Lavender
  • Oakmoss
  • Coumarin (a substance one finds in Tonka beans)

Of course, these basic components are always combined with other fragrances to make the perfume unique.

Some History

The company Azzaro was founded by Loris Azzaro (1933-2003) in 1967. Nowadays he is more famous for his fragrances but he like so many others started with haute couture and some big names belonged to his customers.

As from 2003 until 2011 the French Designer Vanessa Seward took over. In 2006 the Andorran company Reig bought Azzaro. Now two designers by the names of Arnaud Maillard and Alvaro Castejon took over as artistic directors and presented their first collection in 2013 and I take it that fashion is going on there.

“Azzaro pour Homme” is now produced in license by Clarins.
   

ARAMIS. 1964.

Finally, I am introducing a fragrance for men.

Aramis came to the market in 1964 and has been a bestseller ever since. It produced by the Estée Lauder Group. Their website says:

Aramis was the first prestige men’s fragrance to be sold in department stores. The brand continues to be a defining pillar of The Estée Lauder Companies as an industry leader in the men’s fragrance and grooming category.

(Source: elcompanies.com)

If you have been reading here for a while you might remember that Estée Lauder was a clever and persistent business woman.

The nose behind Aramis is Bernard Chant (1927 – 1987) who also created other fragrances for Estée Lauder as well as for Halston, Clinique and Parfum Grès.

Aramis belongs to the family of chypre-leather with the following ingredients

Top notes: artemisia, bergamot, cinnamon, gardenia
Middle notes: pelargonium, patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood
Base: leather, oakmoss, amber

(Source: fragrantica.com)

As it seems most of European men consider the scent overpowering while it still is a great success in the United States. I don’t know why but it reminds me to the James Bond movies of the 60ies even though this guy is British.
   

DIORISSIMO. 1956.

The name says it all: the fragrance clearly is made by order of the House of Dior.

Christian Dior

Most of us just know Dior’s fame. But Dior’s career was far from straight forward. He was born in 1905 into a wealthy family. But the Great Depression that started in 1929 ruined his father’s business.

Fortunately, Christian Dior was a talented painter and designer. In 1931 he started drawing hats for “Le Figaro” and later fashion designers would hire him to make sketches of dresses. In 1939 Christian became famous for the first time. He designed a dress for a wealthy Brazilian heiress who would wear it at great Ball organised by Chanel.

Dior also served in the French army and in 1941 he run a fruit plantation in the South of France.

It was in 1946 when he set up shop at the elegant Avenue Montaigne in the heart of Paris. To this day there is a Dior flagship store at this address. In 1957 Dior became the first fashion designer to made the cover of Time magazine.

Diorissimo

Diorissimo came to the market in 1956 and still remains there. It is described as a fresh and floral scent with lilies of the valley in its heart.

Apparently, the lily of the valley is a holy flower in France that also represents hope and joy and Christian Dior believed in it. Here is the legend as I found it:

A brave and fearless fighter, called Saint Leonard wanted to spend his days among the flowers and trees and live a life dedicated to God. He asked permission to go and live in the woods. A dragon called Temptation lived in those woods. They fought and blood was spilled. Leonard bravely fought the dragon until it was defeated. Poisonous weeds began to grow where the dragon spilled his blood, but beds of lilies of the valley started to grow wherever the ground was moistened with Saint Leonard’s blood. (Source: Fragrantica)

Fragrances, Licenses and Wealth

Dior already created a scent “Miss Dior” in 1947. We all know that this perfume is still available. Not only, had Mr Dior a talent for design he also had a great sense for business. It was he who invented the system of licensing for perfumes which secured his company’s economy and was copied by many other enterprises.

More

If you want to know more about Christian Dior’s live I urge you the read this article. It is a brilliant read and the only flaw I can find is that I am not the author.

FEMME. 1942.

femme

The House of Rochas

The scent “Femme” has been created on behalf of a lawyer in 1942.

Believe it or not the founder of the House of Rochas by the name of Marcel Rochas was originally a lawyer. He was 23 years old when he came to his “fashionable senses”. In 1925 he set up a fashion shop in Paris that should become tremendously successful.

At the beginning he produced luxury fashion and superstars like Marlene Dietrich or Carole Lombard belonged to his clients. He also hired famous people to work for him; Jean Cocteau or Paul Poiret to name only two.

In 1953 Marcel Rochas himself strictly concentrated on perfumes while his wife Hélène looked after the fashion department. In 1955 Rochas died quite unexpectedly and Hélène managed the entire company that she sold in 1970.

Perfumes

Already in 1936 Rochas brought three successful scents to the market which – at least to my knowledge and according to their website – are out of sale.

This makes “Femme” the oldest Rochas scent still available. “Femme” belongs to the perfume family called “Chypre”.

The name Chypre originates form the French name for Cyprus and has been invented by François Coty who created a scent by this name. The ingredients Coty used for his fragrance became the standard for the entire perfume family: oak moss, labdanum, patchouli and bergamot are the main ingredients.

Besides the typical Chypre ingredients Rochas used prunes which makes the composition chypre-fruity. These scents tend to last a long time on one’s skin.

But “Femme” is long lasting in more ways than one.