The British Vogue’s May 2023 issue hit stands on April 25th and celebrates a new vanguard of disabled talent and advocates. It’s a celebratory moment in history and sure to reframe conversations around disability awareness, inclusion, and accessibility in fashion.
I’ve seen some of the featured fashionable adaptive clothing but am waiting with bated breath for my copy to see if there are any fashionable adaptive footwear showcased. There are many designer shoe brands listed on British Vogue’s Youtube film in the Special Thanks section like Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik, but I can’t see the details of the shoes. I must know, are there any designer adaptive shoes in the issue?
I emphasize this because shoes have always been my nemesis. I have scoliosis and throughout the years shoe comfort and support were my friend because back pain was my enemy. It made for difficult and frustrating shoe shopping. Leaving no store, I mean stone, unturned, I’ve searched high and low for shoes that offered all of the design features I need and were stylish too. Flat shoes were too flat and anything over 2 inches had me looking like a…well let’s just say, not a supermodel strutting on a runway. I passed by the high heel and designer shoes sections and headed straight for the low heels. And begrudgingly, I typically settled for frumpy.
My days in NYC brought this issue to a breaking point. Between all the walking and watching Carrie in her Sex in the City shoes, I felt frustrated, demoralized and my back and feet hurt constantly. I never felt chic, pretty, sexy or sophisticated in my shoes. I wore sneakers, sensible shoes and carried my “2 hour” shoes to slip on when I arrived at the swanky martini bars. And then I met an image consultant who said my clothes were fabulous, but my shoes were the culprit! Her suggestion to cut off some of the heel opened a whole new world of cute shoe options for me. Believe me, I kept the shoe cobbler busy!
Since having spinal fusion surgery, I have a closet full of shoes in clear boxes that I can admire but can’t wear. With no flexibility in my back, trying to figure out how to tie, buckle and even put on pull-on shoes has taken me to task. The 18” shoehorn is useless! As I said in my TEDx Talk, finding fashionable adaptive shoes are my wicked witch of the West. (TEDx Talk titled "Adapt to Life’s Curveballs with Fashion!"; Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaDRAd4D_GI)
According to Euromonitor International, the market for designer shoes is $31 billion today and set to grow to $40 billion by 2027. The Business of Fashion stated that designer footwear shoppers are looking for both comfort and statement styles that push the boundaries of traditional features due to the impact of the pandemic on lifestyles and the elevation of streetwear and sneakers as a status symbol. Brands are competing for market share in this category of footwear, and I am hoping that they will also consider designing fashionable adaptive shoes for people with disabilities who, like me, love BEAUTIFUL shoes.
There are companies embracing inclusion and focused on making life easier for people with disabilities. For example, Zappos, Nike and Billy Footwear - thank you for this! But where are the designer shoe brands in this conversation?
I’ve learned a couple of things in this adventure of finding fashionable adaptive shoes. My sweet spot for fashionable shoes is ankle boots with a zipper. Also, I wish I kept all my original shoeboxes. It makes life easier for re-sale of the countless designer shoes that I simply can’t wear because I can’t put them on…or take them off!