Hubert Burda Media


As Chanel pays homage to its founder with Mademoiselle Privé, an exhibition that opens today in London, Vincenzo La Torre revisits one of the most celebrated signatures of the house, the two-tone shoe.

AT CHANEL’S AUTUMN/WINTER 2015 fashion show, every single model who made her way through Brasserie Gabrielle, the Parisian restaurant re-created by Karl Lagerfeld as a backdrop to a very bon chic, bon genre collection, wore a pair of two-tone slingback shoes, their ladylike shape and monotone hues a perfect foil to the timeless and elegant pieces worn by the girls.

Created in 1957 and heralded by Coco Chanel as “the height of elegance”, the two-tone shoe broke with the notion that women’s footwear had to be monochrome and paired to the colours of their outfits. It quickly became a hit among a coterie of leading ladies such as Romy Schneider, Catherine Deneuve, Brigitte Bardot and Jane Fonda.

Ever attuned to a woman’s practical needs, Coco Chanel realised that the beige hue lengthened the leg while the black cap shortened the foot, greatly enhancing the appearance of women’s bodies and posture.

Although bicolour shoes had been a staple of men’s wardrobes since the 18th century, Coco Chanel was the first to add them to women’s wardrobes, creating different versions of the slingback throughout her career, always in collaboration with loyal shoemaker Massaro.

Karl Lagerfeld, who debuted his take on the style in his first ready-to-wear collection in 1983, is revisiting the shoe this season, stating, “The slingback has become the most modern shoe and makes the legs look beautiful.” He could be talking about the other iterations of bicolour footwear that have become synonymous with Chanel, from the comfortable quilted ballerinas to the coveted espadrilles in leather and canvas that Chanel aficionados collect season after season. These they wear from day to night, as nonchalant as Coco Chanel sitting on the shoulders of her friend Serge Lifar while sporting a pair of leisure shoes that still look the epitome of Riviera chic.