Italian shoes are notoriously considered to be the best in the world, both for their quality and for their design. Therefore, as a citizen of the stiletto-shaped country, ever since I landed in Chile and continued my never-ending pursuit for the perfect pair of heels to add to my collection, I couldn’t help but feel like a Cinderella who had lost her shoe somewhere in Santiago’s smog.
Photo courtesy Romano
Chile isn’t the best place for shoe-shopping, and less so when compared with neighboring Argentina. How many times have I found myself staring at the cows in the countryside, wondering why they are transformed only into steak for asados and do not become gorgeous leather boots, killer’s peep toe or colored ballerinas, just as happens on the other side of the Andes!
Eventually I found out that the reason for such disparity is that leather in Chile is harder to find than it is on the Argentinean pampas, and so it is way more expensive. However, this insight did not stop me in my search for the next perfect pair of shoes for my demanding Italian feet. Luckily, I came across some really good options, and feel compelled to share them with the rest of the human-female-kind.
As probably most of you know, North American shoes (made in China, of course) can be found in the malls Alto Las Condes, La Dehesa and Parque Arauco at Nine West and Aldo. In reference to the last I must say that no average woman, by average I mean with a normal vertebral column and without specific body-training, can tolerate their heels for longer than 2 hours a day.
Unfortunately, the risk with those brands is that they are so popular you might run into many other girls wearing the same shoes. This is a good reason to try out some new options.
Photo courtesy Romano
My first discovery is a Chilean line called Romano. The shoes have a definitively Argentinean flavor: the leather is the key element in all its colors, retaining a rough appearance and in some models seeming even unprocessed.
The highlights of their collection are the boots and booties, although I must say they have some fun kitten heels out there, in all the colors you can think of. An inovative feature in their latest collection is the special wedge heel that is modeled with a curve to the inside so that, besides being super-comfortable, it does look feminine and not at all clunky (which can be a risk with normal wedges).
Another option is to buy shoes imported by people who sell them privately, or during events. In this case, prices and models vary greatly, and one can also make special requests from an importer’s catalog . Most of the time the seller will publish pictures of its shoes on their facebook page, on flickr or on their own blog.
Javiera and her sister Francisca have started like this with the line they called “Chic Fashion Hunter.” “We have decided to import the latest trends when it comes to shoes.
Image by Macarena Peñaloza; Photos courtesy Zapatos Tacòn
We noticed that most young girls want to be in the edge of the trend but they get tired of it really quickly, so they won’t spend too much when it comes to trendy shoes. What we give them is the possibility to buy what’s fashionable in the U.S. for a really cheap price. Fashion is disposable in Chile: people want new things every day and they will not go broke to get it.” The business is going pretty well and the sisters can now offer clothes by Forever XXI and other American pocket-friendly brands (shoe prices range from CP$20,000 to CP$35,000).
Another alternative is the Zapatos Tacòn group, which was created by two shoe-junky friends, Marcela and Lo’, who sell shoes by Argentinean designer Luz Principe and Spanish brand Mustang. They organize fun sales in Marcela’s apartment in the artistic district of Bellas Artes (where clients can try on exclusive shoes while sipping a glass of champagne) and participate in the monthly sales by the Lavanda group in El Golf (prices range from CP$40,000 to CP$120,000).
Definitely a bit pricier, but classic pieces with a touch of originality, are the shoes by De Maria.
The designer, Maria Conorti, considers herself a "compulsive fool for shoes" and maintains that she creates shoes according to her perceptions, wishes and caprices. The higher price is wholly justified by the quality of her creations, in suede and leather worked with crocodile print, patent applications, and small complements brought from her trips to France and Italy. Her store opened in Santiago in March of this year and sells the whole collection, but with limited units to keep the exclusivity and originality searched for by its clients.
Photo courtesy Amê
Close by, in Alonso de Cordova 4270, one can find Amê (“Soul” in French), a brand new store that was born out of the passion for shoes by two friends, Paulina Parrau and Lynn Aldridge. Both marketing experts, Paulina and Lynn decided to quit their jobs and embark on a new adventure by creating a little paradise for leather fanatics. Their store is the only distributor in Chile of the Argentinean bag brand “Pr?ne.” In order to ensure exclusivity to their clients, they only import one pair of shoes in each size for each model (prices range from CP$35,000 to CP$120,000).
Straight from Buenos Aires comes Ingrid Gutman, the owner of the shop “La Tienda de Buenos Aires” (Alonso de Cordova 3890), whose trademark is the details in her shoes. Funky heels, flower-clips and trendy colors all convey her motto that shoes should not be considered an accessory, but rather the main element of the whole outerwear. Ingrid also offers a wide range of gorgeous leather jackets and leather bags (shoe prices from CP$49,000 to CP$65,000).
One last word for the best known Chilean shoe designer, Arturo Chiang. After working for Nine West for 20 years, Arturo decided to start his own brand in 2001, opening his only store in South America close to Alonso de Cordova, in Avenida Nueva Costanera, in 2005.
Shoes by Arturo Chiang; Photo by Ingerid Salvesen
Son of a Chinese immigrant and a woman from Valparaiso, Arturo studied in Paris, but chose New York to develop professionally in an environment where fashion was “more modern, casual and avant-guard.” His motto is “affordable luxury” and, accordingly, his shoes prices range from CP$60,000 to CP$70,000.
Zapatos de Maria, Amê , La Tienda de Buenos Aires and Arturo Chiang can be found in the so-called “triangle of luxury” between the streets Alonso de Cordova, Vitacura and Nueva Costanera, together with a few other exclusive stores importing Argentinean creations. When it comes to shoes, Alonso de Cordova is a little piece of Buenos Aires in Santiago.
Unfortunately , many Chilean women seem to fear the “triangle”, refusing to go there even if only for a walk. The reason is the widespread misconception that the stores in the street are super-expensive, an idea encouraged by the presence of high-end stores such as Louis Vuitton and Hermes.
On the contrary, the streets in the area are filled with affordable exclusive creations by Chilean and Argentinean designers, and offer some good variations to the monotony of the mall clothes. Prices might be in some cases slightly higher, but that’s the penalty one must pay for the quality, the design and the exclusivity. After all, to rephrase marketing expert Pamela Danziger, not all spending is created equal: some is an investment, the rest is an expense.
Chic Fashion Hunter
Monjitas 537, Dpto 74, Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile
Alonso de Cordova 3894, Second Floor, Vitacura, Santiago, Chile
Alonso de Cordova 4270, Vitacura, Santiago, Chile
La Tienda de Buenos Aires
Alonso de Cordova 3890, Vitacura, Santiago, Chile
Av. Nueva Costanera 4115 loc. 2, Vitacura, Santiago, Chile