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Stuart Weitzman: Nudist makes him stars’ favourite shoe designer of 2014

From the Duchess of Cambridge’s Australian tour to Solange Knowles’s altercation with Jay-Z in a lift, many of 2014’s most memorable celebrity moments have had one thing in common: shoes by the US designer Stuart Weitzman.

One particular Weitzman style – the Nudist – was worn on more red carpets than any other this year. The barely there two-strap heels adorned the feet of a variety of celebrities – including the models Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Miranda Kerr, teenage stars Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) and Chloë Grace Moretz, actors Diane Kruger, Naomi Harris and Amy Poehler as well as the singers Rita Ora, Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga. Not to mention Hollywood A-listers Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Watson. The celebrity effect has been felt on sales, too, with 75,000 pairs being sold since December 2013.

In fashion terms, a revealing sandal with a 110mm (4in) heel really should not have been the red carpet shoe of 2014. This year’s catwalk footwear was bulky and flat – couture trainers at Chanel and hiking-inspired sandals at Prada and Givenchy. Still, Weitzman puts much of the shoe’s success down to a quality flat shoes have in spades: comfort.

Jennifer Lawrence wearing the Nudist at the Catching Fire premiere in Berlin.
Photograph: Luca Teuchmann/WireImage

“I like to say we are democratic,” said Weitzman – an affable New Yorker in his 70s (his exact age is not verified by his PR team), who began designing shoes for his father’s company in the 1960s.

“We are good shoe engineers. I started my company by going for the career woman and the housewife. Then, about seven or eight years ago I started to get requests from celebrities who wanted versions of my shoes, because they knew they could wear them that day.

“Angelina Jolie asked to wear a Stuart Weitzman pump on Salt, because it fitted her so well, but asked for a slightly higher heel. And my eyes opened up – I realised that entering that world could give us an edge. And so, while we kept our existing customers, we also started to grow in fashion,” he said.

Weitzman accepts that the Nudist is a familiar shape, describing it as “a style that has been in the shoe industry for many years but it wasn’t really noticed or promoted; a clean shoe that goes with 90% of dresses.”

The Duchess of Cambridge in her Stuart Weitzman wedges.
Photograph: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

He added: “Our version has a very sexy peep hole at the back, and we placed the heel right at the back of the shoe, to elongate the leg – something that would not have been technically possible 20 years ago.”

The shoe also has a cushion-like 8mm latex platform, hidden with leather, and straps designed to “grip your arch and put the weight all through the back of your foot and not on your toes”. Clearly – regardless of trends – a go-with-anything shoe that promises leg elongation with a little less foot pain is very tempting.

Costing £295 (most celebrity favourites – like Jimmy Choo sandals – are more likely to set you back £500 or £600), the Nudist and other Weitzman footwear occupies the centre ground. The blessing of the ultimate mid-market style icon, the Duchess of Cambridge, helps. Though she has not worn the Nudist (“I wouldn’t expect to see her in the sandal,” said Weitzman. “That’s not something she would gravitate towards.”) she has been inseparable from the brand’s sensible cork wedges and feminine shoe boots.

“I know she bought our shoes before she became a princess,” said Weitzman. “She seems to be a normal gal who doesn’t want to change because of the role. I think she makes a point not to be extravagantly designer.”

Solange wore a lower-heeled version of the Nudist – called the Naked – on her wedding day.
Photograph: Josh Brasted/WireImage

In a more high-fashion endorsement, Solange Knowles wore Weitzman sandals not only during the lift incident but also for her achingly hip wedding in November. As a bride, she chose three different pairs of the Naked – a version of the Nudist with a smaller heel initially designed with the older consumer in mind.

For Weitzman, this was seismic. “I was floored. What does it say that a girl who can dance in the highest heels, one of the coolest girls, who is constantly photographed in high heels, wore a lower heel on her wedding day?

“Designers used to say ‘my customers have to wear this heel even though it kills them.’ But now they won’t. That is the way the world is today,” he said. Compare this approach to Christian Louboutin’s 2011 tirade against comfort (“Comfy, that’s one of the WORST words! I just picture a woman feeling bad, with a big bottle of alcohol, really puffy”) and something does appear to be afoot.

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