By Nicole Lachance
Has any one of us put together a bridal look without contemplating how to incorporate a touch of colour? My “aha moment” was in 2002, when I saw the first photographs of Gwen Stefani’s hot pink dip-dyed wedding gown designed by John Galliano for Christian Dior. My heart stopped, and I realized that her gown was the embodiment of my wedding dress dreams. Not every bride will want to be so bold with colour, and not every bride will have the budget or access to a couture wedding gown. As such, my compromise in 2004 was to add drama with rich red floral bouquets. Luckily, the bridal fashion world has moved forward, and access to unique pieces has been made easier thanks to creative local designers and better access to online shopping. The important thing to understand is that there are ways to add a pop of colour here and there; you can be bold, or you can be subtle, but it is absolutely one of those trends that is here to stay.
Fast-forward to 2021, and Gwen Stefani was once again a wedding look trendsetter when she wore white and gold stiletto cowgirl boots by Le Silla to marry Blake Shelton. Footwear is a really subtle way to jazz up your bridal look because most gowns will be long enough to cover the shoes while the bride is standing at the reception and for the classic family and wedding party photos. However, when the fashion-forward bride walks down the aisle and dances during the reception, guests can catch a glimpse of fantastically colourful shoes. The bride can also pose dramatically for photos à la Gwen, where she hitched up her skirt and dramatically pointed one cowgirl booted toe up in the air.
The romance of a new kind of wedding shoe came to life when I interviewed the Italian shoe designer, Arturo Gorlini. When he spoke to me by telephone, it was as if he were telling me a fairy tale, the way he described conceiving his shoe brand together with his beautiful wife Luisa in the town of Vigevano, near Milan, in northern Italy. Dating back to the 10th century AD, Vigevano is not only one of Italy’s historic art centres, but it is renowned for its long history of the artisanal craft of shoemaking. In Italian, the word is calzature, which is infinitely more elegant and romantic than the word shoemaking, and perhaps this was the key to unlocking the magic that began in Vigevano and will forever link the art of calzature with Italy’s cultural heritage.
During our interview, Arturo listed for me a number of celebrated shoe designers who own or use factories in Vigevano to produce their shoes. In fact, prior to launching his own brand of shoes in 2018, at the urging of his lovely and creative wife Luisa, Arturo worked for other notable shoe design houses. I won’t name them, but they are known and coveted worldwide.
Located in Vigevano, apart from shoe factories, is a professional school which Arturo attended, that teaches shoe design, pattern making, cutting and sewing. Arturo explains that the ability of a shoe designer to create a heel of any great height, that can be realistically and comfortably worn, comes from his many years of patient design artistry, and his precise attention to detail during the design process. For example, the pitch of the shoe must be considered, maintaining proper sizing by properly wrapping the fabric around the sole, combined with precise and traditional stitching. All of these aspects must come together to produce an Arturo Gorlini shoe.
As if the magnificent designs weren’t enough, Arturo Gorlini wants the women wearing his shoes to feel special as if they were part of a secret society club, and for his products to be instantly recognizable. In this regard, he has chosen the color fuchsia, the pinkest tone of passion, for the trademark color of his soles. This way, when the wearer is walking away from you, walking up the stairs, when she sits in front of you and crosses her legs, or when she kicks her foot up in joy, the unmistakable fuchsia sole tells the story of the designer in an instantly recognizable way. He comments that some shoe designers are amazing artists, and they sketch exquisite designs, but oftentimes these fantastical sketches are not realistic to make, because, for whatever reason, the shoe that results will not be wearable. This is where his decades of experience in all aspects of shoe design and production come into play. When he has a vision in his mind’s eye of the shoe that he wants to create, he will work and revise the design until it reaches a point where it will be both wearable and still maintain the fabulous aspects and characteristics that brought the shoe alive in his imagination.
The sewing and stitching artisans work with the materials around the plastic forms to ensure that standard fits will be achieved. He explains that he learned these design and fit methods from the old guard, and these methods are tried and true, they are classic and a necessity in the artisanal shoe industry. In essence, when you take a shoe design from the point of a sketch to the point of an actual shoe, standard sizing and comfort must be respected. If these steps are not properly carried out for each shoe design, then the result will be odd fits and shoes that are neither comfortable nor durable, because you need to achieve balance in every design. He laughs and says it was simply his stroke of good luck, that he was able to patiently learn these key aspects of traditional shoemaking by virtue of where he grew up.
Every Arturo Gorlini shoe is hand-stitched by an artisan trained in the Italian shoe-making methods, within his Naples factory. Every aspect of the shoe manufacturing process is Italian. When I ask about his inspiration, he names one iconic shoe designer: Andrea Pfister. He lived in Vigevano, and he was a true artist, he was the world pioneer of couture shoes. Like Andrea Pfister, Arturo Gorlini strives to design shoes that are feminine, attractive, have personality, and are perfectly made, and the fit, quality, and comfort of his shoes is of essential importance. After all, how can a woman be sexy if her shoes are causing her pain? He favors the use of showy colors and eye-catching patterns, which impart an air of cheeriness and contentment, along with their vibrant fuchsia soles. Again, Arturo refers to his ability to effectively design and construct a 12 cm high heeled shoe that is comfortable enough for a woman to wear all evening. Only a shoe designer with decades of learning and experience can properly achieve this feat. I can tell he is grinning when he says, “There are secrets.”
On the topic of secrets, picture the demure bride, wearing a traditional white gown, walking down the steps to meet her guests in the receiving line, and what do they see? That glorious fuchsia sole, and a dazzling colourful shoe peeking out from beneath her confection of a dress. The bride is wearing shoes fit for a fairy tale princess, and every bride should feel like a princess on her wedding day. During the spring or summer, the new look of a wedding shoe could be a colourful strappy high-heeled sandal or a tonal metallic pointy-toed pump. For a fall or winter bride, the choice could be a stiletto bootie with dramatic colour accents. Whatever her choice, today’s reality is that there exists a choice beyond a simple white pump. “My day, my way” extends all the way down to the very tip of the bride’s toe. Now is absolutely the time for every bride to indulge her deepest footwear fantasies.
Arturo Gorlini shoes are currently available in the exclusive Printemps department store in Paris, as well as in numerous elegant boutiques along the Cote d’Azur, in St. Tropez, in Aix-en-Provence. Have I mentioned free worldwide shipping? Happy shopping!