Move Forwards

Text: Patrícia Barnabé

My kingdom in a pair of shoes

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, all fashion fans dreamed of having a pair of Ana Salazar shoes, glued to the window of her store in Chiado. For the designer, everything can start with the shoes.

The great painter Paula Rego came to Portugal to exhibit her work at the Belém Cultural Centre many years ago, “and the first thing she said to me when I arrived at the inauguration was: ‘Aaah, Ana, not having your shoes has been a great loss to me!’”, she laughs, sitting relaxed in her large living room. “I found it terribly amusing.” And when Joana Vasconcelos modelled on the catwalk for Ana Salazar, Portugal’s most popular artist already wore shoes of the best known fashion designer. “And when she found out the store was going to close she bought several pairs of shoes.”

There are many women in the world of arts, letters and communication who have lived in Ana Salazar shoes. An elite bored with the classic model of what was supposed to be a woman, an elite with visual culture, a lot of worldly know-how and an idea of the future. Her shoes were a symbol of something new and capable, they raised self-esteem, but they also provided comfort, in the measure of a capital that cannot, and should not, stop: “Many people talk about my shoes because they occupied a niche market that is still rare today: platform heels. It’s not a very feminine shoe, like a Jimmy Choo, but it gives comfort and height and elegance, it always adds to the wearer.” Any girl knows that this is the fashion dream come true. “Of course when a woman wears a high heeled shoe everyone likes it, in fact normally only women in high heels are liked. But when you wear a different shoe, most don’t applaud.”

During adolescence, Ana Salazar wore ballet flats, “I never really liked heels, nor the really high and thin heels that only look good on very thin women with a fabulous walk, which is very rare”. Afterwards, walking on Lisbon’s uneven sidewalk is not like parading through the impeccable streets of the fashion capitals: “A thicker heel is more comfortable and safer. Of course, shoes are one of the treasures of her wardrobe, which she buys out of passion: “I buy the shoes and then I find out what looks good with them,” even if she has to buy new clothes. Although original, Ana never liked what she calls “silly shoes.” “For me, the shoe has to go with everything, even the hairstyle”. And she really likes masculine shoes, “they look great in an evening dress with lace or transparencies, for example. A man’s shoe, a brogue, good and very special.”

She is wearing Miu Miu platform heel sandals studded with big shimmering stones. She had been dreaming of a pair of Prada male shoes in demand, and ended up opting for these on one of her trips to Milan. “They are super comfortable, almost tractors”, she says in her well-known joking manner. It is quite unusual to see her wearing shoes with ornaments, she has always preferred smooth leather models, sometimes suede or varnish, almost always in black or derivations of brown, earth or neutral tones. For her, the red or brightly coloured shoe doesn’t have the same charm. The notions of feminine and sexy have evolved a lot, but a Latin country that so often confuses that with low-cut, short or figure-hugging, has not always understood the minimal and futuristic good taste of Ana Salazar, inspired by Japanese designers, by definition more conceptual and with a punk attitude that does not fit with tradition: “My clothes stressed the lines of the body without marking them out, and most women wear tight clothes.”

Her shoes were a revolution and, like everything else that is not obvious, the conservatives told us those clothes were unsexy. “They were simple and comfortable, that’s why so many people liked them.” But they had more than that: a modern design thought for women who live in the city, who have things to do, the world to walk around in, and are in a rush. Then, there were her shoes, ankle boots, sandals, Ana designed all kinds of shoes, they lasted and lasted: “I’ve always worked with great factories, we have excellent manufacturers and I’ve always been able to put my ideas into practice”. Made in Portugal, but she sold in Paris, even before opening her store: “One day I was in a shoe store where I used to go called Sasha and the owner asked me where I bought the shoes I was wearing. ‘They are made in Portugal’, I replied. “How can I get them to sell them here?’ he said, “I can get them for you,” I replied. “I’m interested in 400 pairs,” he replied. Ana laughs, for it was three times more than what she manufactured for her store in Lisbon. “I immediately called the manufacturer in Portugal, and the next day he had sold 400 pairs of shoes to Paris.”

Photos: ModaLisboa FW 11/12

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