Few trends last longer than a season or two, emerging on the catwalks and then interpreted into street style thereafter. It will then filter down into high street stores, democratising the trend and allowing the masses to partake. If the public prove they enjoy it – the trend has the ability to become a wardrobe staple. No longer an item of clothing to flutter in and out of the industry’s consciousness, instead something to be interpreted and re-interpreted season after season.
This was indeed the case with the slip on shoe, starting with the rise of the Birkenstock slide, this comfortable style has become a staple for everyone’s shoe-drobe. The orthopedically-inspired shoe, that has a history spanning from 1774, caused havoc in the collections of Spring/Summer 2013. Céline and Giambattista Valli were the first houses to refashion the two-strap shoe into something more palatable, followed by pretty much every fashion house since. Chloé Mikolajczak, a sustainability advocate and founder of fair fashion blog The Green Monki, is a keen fan of the vegan Birkenstock: “I really like the rural but stylish look of Birkenstocks. Either with short, cropped jeans or a pair of denim shorts and a simple t-shirt.” Whether it is in the form of a vegan Birkenstock, Adidas pool slides or Gucci slip-ons, it is now the shoe not only for the warmest of days, but to be worn with socks in colder weather or even to be slipped on for errand-running such as dashing to the shops or taking the bins out.
Shannon Crowley, founder of shoe brand Starch Slides, creates her slip-ons from recycled men’s shirts and a vegan leather insole. More masculine than the traditional closed-toe slide, which can appear very dainty, the Starch shoe has a wide front and will come up high on the foot enough to almost meet the hemline of your jeans. “I wanted something easy and grab-and-go,” Crowley tells sartorial snob. “I like my things to be easily packed, I travel a lot. So my big thing was how can we make it easy for gifts? And how can we make it easy to travel, easy for girls to throw in their bag?”
“Living in New York, you will pass trash cans filled with clothes because a lot of the time donation centres can’t even take it. If there is one little rip, or one stain, you can’t even give the clothes away, they are just thrown out and it is such a waste,” she says. Coming up with the idea of Starch slides in the middle of the night, Crowley started to form an idea of how to use up the waste material in a more productive way. With a background in styling and retail management, she knew what the fashion crowd wanted both practically and style-wise. “I’ve always styled with men’s shirts. I’m a tomboy at heart and I’ve always just kind of bought them based on the print,” Crowley explains of her love for the classic patterns found on men’s shirts. “I started ripping up a shirt and using different materials to see if I can keep the shape of the shoe. I talked to manufacturers and I went from there.”
Emphasising the ease of the slide, Crowley thought of her own lifestyle when coming up with Starch Slides: “my thing is every morning I go to the gym and then I go out for the day and while I’m at the gym, slides are just so easy. For me, it was a shoe that just popped into my head.”
Kim Brink, model and founder of sustainable writing platform LOVEBYKIM agrees, believing the style to be incredibly versatile: “they go with almost any look, especially during the Spring and Summer time. Works perfectly with jeans, shorts, skirts and dresses. And I tend to style mine alone, or wearing a cute sock in a lighter fabric, either black or silver.”
Since launching her brand two years ago, Crowley has experienced a high volume of sales, regularly selling out entire collections. The Hawaiian collection, made from Hawaiian shirts, sells out immediately as soon as it is restocked. This is why Crowley ensures she keeps up the “sold out” tab on the website, so customers know what has been offered and will continue to be offered in the future once they get ahold of more second-hand shirts like them. “We keep very close records of what is selling quickly, what people are asking for the most and what colours people are going towards and then we will try to do more of that in the next batch and keep going from there.”
Currently working on collaborations with other brands in New York who want to make use of their material scraps, Crowley has plenty in the works for growing her business. “We are working on other styles right now. I wanted to keep them simple and within the slides family,” she explains of what’s to come after summer. “We have very cool 1970s styles and there are some open toes too.”
Although investing so much of your business into one particular style of shoe seems risky, especially when there is cold weather half of the year in New York, it seems to have worked well enough with Crowley. “We’ve been around almost two years, before the style became a ‘style’. People in New York were doing it but it wasn’t what it is now,” she explains. “I got lucky and the trend exploded just as we started growing so that was very helpful.”
Brink is looking forward to the warmer weather to wear her slides: “They appear to be very trendy indeed, I have my eyes on a pair of black backless shoes from Swedish ATP Atelier.” With e-commerce sites such as Net-a-Porter having a dedicated page just for the slide, and brands such as Simone Rocha, Fendi and Christopher Kane continuing to make the shoe their own, it is obvious this style is going nowhere. And as Crowley notes: “slide season is coming.”