Last summer, the brand’s footwear had a similar flourish, featuring a round toe cap displaying five sculptural-looking extremities dipped in gold lacquer — most recently worn by Doja Cat at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday.
Doja Cat wore a literal head-to-toe Schiaparelli look to the 2022 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 15, 2022. Credit: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/FilmMagic
But the Daniel Rosebery-led French couture house isn’t the only luxury label leaning into an intriguing appreciation for feet.
AVAVAV’s slime-green boots exaggerate the wearer’s digits for a surrealist effect. Credit: Leonardo Casalini
“Designers love to take on a challenge,” said Maria Bobila, fashion editor at Nylon, in a phone interview. “They want to turn something super polarizing and ‘ugly’ into fashion, turning it into a coveted piece.”
Celine’s 2013 painted toenail pumps, photographed here by artist Isabelle Wenzel, were controversially only made in one skin tone. Credit: Isabelle Wenzel
“There’s definitely an internet culture element to it,” said Bobila of these surreal shoes. “Toes are very polarizing. People find them disgusting, but also it’s a fetish. I think (these shoes) play into the memeification of toes.”
Dr. Frenchy Lunning, a professor at Minneapolis College of Art Design and author of the fashion subculture book “Fetish Style,” agrees that there’s a distinctly fetish overtone to Schiaparelli and AVAVAV’s creations.
“They’re fetishizing fetish,” she said over a video call. “It’s fetishizing the whole mystique of fetish, for humor and fun.”
A fetish, Lunning explained over a video call, is when an object is given special, often sexual meaning. “Fetishizing in the erotic is a major part of the human condition. And so objects become charged very easily,” she said. “Fashion is just the fetishization of clothing. It’s taking something and making it more meaningful somehow — plus, looking fashionable has a sexy glimmer to it, right?”
Shoes in particular bridge the two worlds of fashion and fetish. Outside of being an accessory to podophilics (those aroused by feet) shoes have long been instruments of both agony and ecstasy in the industry. In 2015, the Victoria and Albert museum in London dedicated an entire exhibition to the idea that physical discomfort has long been an accepted payoff for dramatic and alluring footwear. “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain,” included high-status shoes dating back to antiquity, like an excruciating waifish gold-leaf papyrus sandal from Roman Egypt, worn by the elite.
Violet Chachki (right) walks down the runway with a submissive companion in tow at the 2022 Richard Quinn show during London Fashion Week. Credit: Gareth Cattermole/BFC/Getty
While a kinkier form of fashion begins to enter the zeitgeist, maybe the most on-trend cleavage to bare this season is that between your toes.