Designer shoes go for island glamour
By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Paula Rath
Beverly Feldman sums up her life in two words: "Sex and shoes."
The designer, who has been in the shoe biz for 35 years, is unflinching in her belief that, when it comes to shoes, "too much is not enough." Her shoes are not for the timid — they are designed to attract attention. "Sex and shoes go together. They always have and they always will," she says. Her current collection clearly follows her philosophy. Bling, in the form of huge rhinestones, dangling paillettes and metallic flowers, adorns nearly every pair. Animal prints combine with turquoise, textures are mixed to the max and foot beds are as glam as the uppers.
While she may not be a household name in the Islands, Feldman designs 1,200 shoes, handbags and home items each year. She sells a half-million pairs of shoes annually.
Her latest tropical-chic collection, "Aloha My Diva," was inspired by her first visit to Hawai'i last year. She paints exotic maidens in coconut bras on the foot beds of sassy wedges. When a foot is in the shoe you see a tropical garden on the side of the wedge and a simple black patent thong on the top.
Beaded palm trees, hibiscus and aloha-inspired print fabrics are splashed on stilettos, flat sandals and, in a nod to the current trend, wedges.
Feldman lives in Alicante, Spain, which she describes as "the shoe capital of Spain."
Last year she was visiting New York and was feeling miserable and jet-lagged. "I turned on the TV and it was that John Wayne movie, 'Donovan's Reef,' and I said to myself, 'I've always wanted to go to Hawai'i and I've never been. I've traveled extensively but always to the same places. I'm going!' "
She fell in love with the Islands and "Aloha My Diva" is the result. She chose Sandal Tree Ala Moana Center to debut the new collection tomorrow.
Feldman's boots have been worn by Oprah, who lifted her skirt on a show and said "Aren't these hot?"
Two months later the boots were on Oprah's "O" List." Yet Feldman eschews the value of celebrity endorsements, though many celebrities wear her shoes (including Halle Berry, Kim Cattrall, Lindsay Lohan and Kirstie Alley).
"My real celebrities are the women who save their money and buy my shoes, not the celebrities who are comped and dressed by their stylists and wear flip flops 99 percent of their time," she said.
Feldman adds that she believes in women being spoiled but that it's "less costly emotionally when we spoil ourselves." She also calls herself a "fashion victim first class, shamelessly indulging in my endless compulsion to buy lipstick, always in pursuit of the new perfect color. I love dancing and shopping, but most of all, dressing up to be noticed."
Since Feldman was a little girl growing up in a small, conservative New England town, she has been obsessed with shoes. Saturdays were spent with girlfriends, hanging out in the local discount shoe store "because the cutest guys were working there."
At the age of 13 she was making all her own clothes and "I figured out how to make a matching pair of flats. I cut the fabric and glued it on to a pair of old shoes. Guess what? It was a bight floral print."
She attended the prestigious Pratt Institute, majoring in fashion merchandising. During her junior year, she was hired as a shoe illustrator, creating ads for national magazines such as Mademoiselle and Glamour.
She soon tired of drawing others' shoes and decided to design for herself. She moved to Spain, "because the weather's better than in Italy," and has been living there and designing shoes ever since. One piece of advice: "Never buy a shoe too small. Shoes are not something that you can lose 10 pounds and they will eventually fit," Feldman said.
How many pairs of shoes does the designer own? "Too many to count," she said with a guffaw. In fact, she has so many pairs of shoes that she built a shoe museum in the back of her villa in Spain.
"I have three homes so I must have shoes in each home," she said. I also have to wear the shoes from my latest collection. She shops on eBay for her designs from previous decades, often paying more than the original price of the shoes.
Sigh. Countless pairs of shoes — it's a girl's dream.
Reach Paula Rath at firstname.lastname@example.org.