Thanks to social media, designer visibility is at an all-time high, which can make finding the fashion brands worth having on your radar that much more difficult. And when it comes to a category as tricky as footwear, sticking to the “rivers and the lakes that you’re used to” (or for those not well-versed in TLC lyrics from the ‘90s), the names you already know and love, is usually the way to go. But that doesn’t mean finding new labels to add to your wardrobe is out of the question. In fact there are a plethora of designers that, if they’re not, should be in your orbit.
On the luxury end of the spectrum, shoppers tend to gravitate towards notable household names, like Manolo Blahnik and Gianvito Rossi. But on par with the greats are newcomers, like Gia Borghini, who makes minimalist footwear that (depending on where you live), transcends seasons and trends by putting a modern twist on timeless silhouettes. Amina Muaddi and Mach & Mach have also cemented their spot in their industry as the party-girl’s go-to for fancy heels, adorned in embellishments, while Pfieri’s vegan designs are made with a sculptural edge.
Luckily, the style-set’s favorite retailers like Net-A-Porter, Matches Fashion, and Farfetch—to name a few—have a vetted list of designer footwear brands, heritage and new, that will give you everything you want, and everything you need. Rather than take time sifting through the bunch, just ahead is a breakdown of the labels every well-dressed woman needs to know before sourcing her next new pair of shoes.
Since its inception in 1966, the Italian luxury house’s accessories have remained a powerhouse in the industry—what with its signature intrecciato weave and impeccable craftsmanship. But it wasn’t until Daniel Lee’s reign as creative director (2018-2021), that the brand’s footwear became a staple in every fashion-girl's wardrobe. From the moment that the padded Lido and candy-colored Stretch sandals made their debut, they were an instant hit. Fully re-energizing the storied maison in the seasons to follow, the buzzy designer churned out a slew of highly-coveted styles, including rubber Puddle boots and wedge mules to fulfill fashion’s insatiability for all things Y2K.
A household name for contemporary footwear, Stuart Weitzman makes the kind of shoes that every woman wants to wear. Timeless by design but still relevant for present day, each of its collections are chock full of updated takes on core styles like, the barely-there Nudist sandal or famed 50/50 boot. While the designer is particularly popular for special occasions, they have an expansive range of everyday footwear that will work hard in your closet. Loafers and lace-up combat boots are plentiful, as are the selection of elevated sneakers and ballet flats, so there really is something for everyone.
If you’re not familiar with Nalebe’s opulent footwear, it’s time to get acquainted. Birthed by Amina Means in 2018, the luxury brand was created out of the designer’s desire to bring comfort to your heel collection, without forgoing an ounce of style. Doing just that, the brand is offering up a selection of embellished stilettos and sandals that are as whimsical as they are easy to wear. Thanks to the cushioned insole at each pressure point, you can wear them all night long, without worrying about discomfort as the hours pass. But the gem brocade detail of its Aurum heels, alone, will have you sold on the emerging label.
On the short list of luxury footwear brands that are widely known (whether you’re into fashion or not), Manolo Blahnik is close to the top. Over the years, the Spanish label known for its unique yet classic shoes have become a notable part of pop culture. The iconic brand’s coveted Hangisi design, in particular, rose to extreme popularity in 2008 after everyone’s favorite fictional style maven, Carrie Bradshaw, wore a cobalt blue pair to marry Mr. Big in the first Sex and the City movie. It’s now available in ballet flat and sandal silhouettes , letting a wide variety of customers enjoy the embellished design—whether heels are your thing or not. Other notable styles include the buckled Maysale and Maysli shoes.
When you think of Jimmy Choo, it’s likely that the words “heritage” and “storied” come to mind. Unbeknownst to most, the brand was founded in 1996. In the years following, Sarah Jessica Parker’s always-stylish character Carrie Bradshaw famously wore its footwear throughout Sex and the City’s six season run—(you may remember the show’s iconic “I lost my Choo!” moment.) A testament to its notability in the market, the luxe shoe label also has a range of notable collaborations under its belt, including the most recent capsule collection with Mugler. The buzzy lineup included an assortment of boots and pumps, in addition to lace-up sandals and crystal-embellished details to amp up the glam.
Amina Muaddi’s aesthetically-pleasing shoes have become a mark of It-girl status, which makes sense considering the founder and designer, herself, is the ultimate fashion girl. Infused with ultra-feminine details and an undeniable cool factor that ensure they’re almost always sold out, the designer’s collection of heels are an absolute must for those hoping to embrace the party-girl aesthetic of the summer. Styles like the point-toe Mary Jane mules and glass-slipper pumps with the fluted heel are among some of the most coveted styles, but the covered wedge boots and lace-up sandals are just as good.
Also on the short list of designer shoe brands that are known—and coveted—by the masses is Aquazzura. The footwear label named after founder’s Edgardo Osorio’s love for the sea and sun makes vacation-worthy pieces fit for any jet-set wardrobe. Made with the intent to make each customer feel beautiful and special, each pair features a series of intricate details that, regardless of where you live, transcend seasons and trends. The style-set can’t get enough of the pom-pom embellished styles and strappy lace-up sandals, which can be dressed up or down.
You may recognize the name Gia Borghini as model and guest designer Rosie Huntington-Whitely is almost always seen wearing their shoes. Founded in 2016 by Barbara Borghini and Gia Borghini, the brand has collaborated with influencer Pernille Teisbaek, so they’re on the pulse of what the style-set wants. Between convincing the masses to wear lug-sole rubber boots and the strappy sandals, these flats and heels fulfill the minimalist’s desire for neutrals at any point in the season. Not to mention, they made a strong case for heeled thong sandals, when everyone thought they were just an early aughts fever dream.
Mach & Mach
As far as party shoe brands go, Mach & Mach is leading the charge. A little impractical but so so much fun the Georgian-based line, that also makes festive ready-to-wear, is where shoppers go when they want to indulge. Candy-colored PVC pumps with embellished ankle-straps are at the forefront, but the brand has since expanded its offering to include ankle boots and mule sandals, designed with the same whimsy you’ve come to expect from their beloved styles. Though you used to only be able to shop them at a limited selection of retailers, they’re now available everywhere from Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods to Nordstrom, Net-A-Porter, and more.
Between Kim Kardashian, Euphoria’s Alexa Demie, and of course, Kanye West, Balenciaga is having a major moment, and has been for some time now. While its Hourglass and Le City bags are currently all the rage, the luxe label’s footwear is becoming just as popular. Though the kitschy Croc’s collab may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there are plenty of other styles to choose from. Its motorsport-inspired Cagole boots are currently trending on TikTok and Instagram, as are the mule sandals from the same collection. Both are in line with the industry’s rising penchant for all things motorsport-inspired. You should also consider adding the rubber platform slides or Knife pumps to your collection of core staples.
The son of the revered designer Sergio Rossi, shoemaking runs in Gianvito Rossi’s family and it shows. Responsible for some of the most aesthetically-pleasing (and comfortable) heels on the market. For his eponymous label, the creative and his team use only the softest leather, suede, and calf hair ensuring their customers have the best of the best. Check out the Portofino sandals and point-toe pumps, the brand’s most popular pairs.
Designed in London but handmade in Italy, Piferi takes pride in imagining gorgeous, gorgeous shoes that are 100 percent vegan. Founder and Creative Director, Alfredo Piferi set out to make animal-free footwear that’s innovative and responsibly made. . He was intrigued by the sculptural side of the industry, which is evident by the artful shape of the pieces in each collection. The exaggerated curve of the heel in particular, has proven to be a key feature throughout the line, and sets them apart from everything else that’s currently available on the market.
Every well-dressed woman needs a pair of nude sandals and pumps in their arsenal, should they need to complete a barely-there look at the last minute. To ensure all your bases are covered, New York-based designer Rebecca Allen created a collection of minimal silhouettes in a range of varying skin tones. Because the lineup is quite expansive, you’re bound to find a pair that works best for you. But on the off chance you want something a little more playful, the new Spring capsule is chock full of muted colorways that have the power to double as a neutral, should you so choose.
A heritage brand that’s been around for decades, Rene Caovilla is where you go when you’re looking for a shoe that’s out of the ordinary. Playful and a little over the top, the Venetian footwear label makes use of age-old Italian craftsmanship to create its lineup of opulent heels. Be it for a wedding or night out, everything the designer does is the epitome of luxury. And if you’re not sure which design to invest in, you can’t go wrong with adding any of the wrap-around Cleo styles to your collection.