Designer/Luxury Shoe Review + Steals and Deals!

I’ve been meaning to do this piece for awhile now, especially for those first-time shoppers that are just diving into the designer shoe world! All are beautiful, but not equal. Sizing, leather, comfort—it varies from fashion house to fashion house. While this is my humble opinion, I’ve definitely gained an idea of what shoes work for what situations and what ones are worth wearing daily. Because it will take me forever, I narrowed it down to the main five I see the most and also wear the most.

Let’s Talk About Sizing

**To note, in contemporary and mid-level brands I’m a size 7, a solid size 7.  Generally in designer shoes a 37 = 6.5 in US sizing (37.5 = 7 US Sizing).

Christian Louboutin: The hard thing with CL is they vary so much, you really do have to try them on, BUT generally I need to go a half size up. I need a 37.5 and with So Kate’s a 38.

Jimmy Choo: I always go a half size up, and I always, without fail, buy size 37.5.

Gucci: These have always been true to size for me, 37 fits like a 7 in this case. I always buy 37.

Yves Saint Laurent: Same as Jimmy Choo, I need to go a half size up. I buy 37.5 in their more classic pump styles.

Manolo Blahnik: MB can be a bit tricky for me, at times I feel like they run true to size for a 7, while others I need to go up a half size and buy 37.5.

Prada/Miu Miu: I’ve also tried a few of their heels as well and I’ve gone up a half size. I shop for 37.5 with Prada.
*Keep in mind with leather, you will find the leather stretches over time as you break in your shoes.

Christian Louboutin comfort concerns: CL makes some of the most stunning shoes. Their sky high 120 mm heels look stunning and they make your legs look insanely long, but they are NOT easy to walk in. I honestly had to practice walking in the So Kates. Comfort was a huge problem. The vamp is cut shallow and so if you have wider feet, you might find several CL styles don’t work well.

I feel like for first-time Christian Louboutin wearers going with a 100mm heel is ideal, especially when a pair is going to cost around $695 retail. Also, Pigalle has a shorter toe box than the So Kate style, which you might find isn’t as comfortable.

Here’s a photo of how I get mine to not be so painful. I use designer insoles and add in an extra to help cushion more, and I can actually walk normally and for a longer period of time. Honestly, CL are the shoes I just wear when I know I’ll be sitting more. I bought these Dr. Scholl’s insoles and they’ve worked wonders.

Protecting Your Designer Shoes

Preventing Wear & Tear on the soles: This is always a concern for designer heels. You spend at least $400 on a pair of shoes and that first knick to the tip of the toe is killer! Rubber sole protectors and heel taps add longevity and also prevent you from slipping, especially with Gucci soles. A cobbler will be able to add these for you and prolong the life of your designer shoes, even flats!

Example below: I’ve been wearing these Gucci heels almost daily at times, and the rubber sole protector has kept them looking new. You can see in the photo with the toes it has helped with protecting the points. This is something worth spending money on to have done with all your designer pairs.

Best Heels For Every Day Wear

This is likely more subjective, because some people swear by their Louboutins, while others swear by their Manolos. For me it comes down to heel shape and height. As most know, block heels are extremely comfortable, and luckily almost all design houses have a block heel version.

I tend to go for classic pump styles because they are timeless and easy to pair with everything—casual and dressy. I do find Manolo Blahnik has a wider vamp that is easy on the feet and also their heel heights provide comfort too. I find myself wearing these lately because I can walk forever without limping at the end.

This specific pair is their Alba Pump. It was sold exclusively at Neiman Marcus at the time, but keep reading and I’ll share with you websites to find them still!

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Another contender for me is Jimmy Choo. I’ve wore them for weddings and danced the night away, and they aways go to conventions and events with me when I have to be on my feet for hours. My toes never feel squished, and even the 4-inch heel height didn’t give me any problems. They make a quite comfortable insole.

I was in Las Vegas for a 2-day event and I wore the pair below for 8 hours straight. Wearing heels that long is never the best for our foot and ankle anatomy, but if you’re looking for something that you can survive long periods of time in—go for Jimmy Choo.

Yves Saint Laurent has proven to be decent as well, I do prefer Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik over comfort by YSL has been solid for office meetings. The vamp was a little more narrow for me at times, but it’s also because I always go for classic pump styles and don’t really deviate from this.

Because the vamp is a bit more narrow on my feet, I opted for a 3-inch heel and it’s been really good so far. I know most go for 4 inches and up for a sexier look, but I feel that even shorter heels and kitten heels look just as beautiful.

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Designer On A Budget

Spending hundreds on a pair of shoes is frightening. It’s a lot of money to fork out for something that will get beat up on the pavement, but I’ve found resale sites make it much more bearable.

Most of the time you can find NWOT (New Without Tag) or some new pairs with the box (NIB = New In Box) around 50% to 80% if you keep hunting and checking consistently.

Favorite Resale sites:

  • The Real Real – they authenticate everything, but even so it does help to research out brands and double check the shoes. I’ve found some really amazing steals, Manolos for $70, Jimmy Choo for $100 on here that were new condition. Also they have a larger inventory.
  • Poshmark – do your homework, because even though Poshmark authenticates for $500 and up, the best deals and steals fall under this mark. There’s A LOT of shoes to sift through as well.
  • Fashionphile – another solid website to shop, their prices aren’t as low as The Real Real, but they do authenticate and they get some hard to find classics.
  • Yoogis Closet – a bit like Fashionphile, but the prices seem to be a bit better. Free shipping and easy returns have me looking here quite a bit.
  • Vestiaire Collective – this site is solid for European based consumers. The caveat is shipping is expensive for stateside. You’re looking at $40 for shipping.

Some Current Steals!

I could add to this list forever, but it gives an idea of what’s out there! I wish you all happy hunting!

Fun Fact: The shoes in the feature image—the total price for those shoes (5 pairs pictured for this review) was only $655!

Composure Magazine – Father’s Day Guide

Read the full story here at composuremagazine.com and grab the latest print issue!

Our top picks for dad!

Story: Min A. Lee

1. Designer Sheila Vance with her engineering team gives sunglasses a futuristic look. Built to withstand changing trends, these sunglasses will last dad for years to come!

Mechanix Sunglasses Frame p=mv Plt with Plt Overlay Lenses, $420, Destination Sama at 9530 Brighton Way, Beverly Hills, California

2. We can’t forget about footwear! Cesare Paciotti impressed us with their Italian quality and modern take on classic styles. The rich colors stood out as perfect gift ideas for dads everywhere!

Cesare Paciotti Madison, $395, Cesare Paciotti Sport Sneaker, $515, cesare-paciotti.com or 9528 Brighton Way, Beverly Hills, California

3. For the dapper dad in your life, check out luxury made-to-order ties from designer Rachel Park with tipping that stands out beautifully. If you want, have dad pick out his own fabric and shape for something truly special!

Rachel Park Silk Ties, Starting at $130, rachelpark.com

4. Whiskey and beer fans, this one is for you! Original Grain creates stunning watches from the reclaimed wood of whiskey and beer barrels. To top it off, for every sale, they plant 10 trees through Trees for the Future.

Original Grain Brewmaster Chrono, $349, originalgrain.com

5. If your dad is always on the go, Kurtis Paul crafts extremely stylish accessories and bags for travelers. Combining function with durability, the waxy leather of their pieces prevents water damage and general wear.

Kurtis Paul 13” Leather Laptop Sleeve, $78, Kurtis Paul Leather Wash Bag, $65, kurtispaul.com

Composure Magazine – Mother’s Day Guide

See the full article here at composuremagazine.com!

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Yoga-wear favorite Manduka teams up with the Susan G. Komen organization in the fight against breast cancer with their Project:OM. Mother’s Day weekend Project:OM is working to create the world’s largest yoga class, one million strong, to help raise funds for breast cancer research. Join in with your mom during this special time and see where classes are being held live-stream in your city at projectOM.com. To top it off, on Saturday, May 13, YouTube sensation Adriene Mishler (in the above picture) will be instructing the live stream class! Sometimes the best gift to give is one that gives back.

More information at manduka.com/projectom

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If you’re interested in Project:OM, consider taking a look at cancer survivor and fashion designer Rachel Park’s Park Puff. A seat belt pillow that allows those recovering from breast cancer to ride and drive in cars with more comfort.

The Park Puff Seat Belt Pillow For Cancer Patients, $39, survivormoda.com

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Every mom knows how kids get every scratch and scrape they can, so Blingsting came up with the chicest first aid kit out there! Everything from bandages to sting relief pads packed into a modern, geometric rose gold clutch—classy!

Blingsting First Aid Clutch, $25, blingsting.com

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Aitch Aitch creates their bags with salmon skin leather, a natural byproduct of the fishing industry—a more sustainable approach. This artisan crafted bag exudes timeless luxury.

Aitch Aitch The Rosa Crossbody Bag, $2090, aitch-aitch.com

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O.R.G is taking Asian skincare technology along with their “breakthrough formulas” and bringing them stateside. Gentle enough for sensitivity, yet extremely effective, this diverse set will keep your skin looking healthier, younger and brighter. With travel sizes included it’s perfect for the mom-on-the-go!

O.R.G Skincare Mother’s Day Gift Set, $89 Mother’s Day Special (otherwise $132), orgskincare.com. Want 10% off? Use our code “COMPOSURE10” at checkout!

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“Addicted To Soft,” is an understatement, these beautifully tailored, lush pieces will become mom’s favorite pieces to wear! Their expert pattern-making ensures a bespoke fit and a garment with high functionality.

Les Lunes Gambetta Top, $92, leslunes.com

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Designed and made right in downtown Los Angeles, this timeless tote will last mom forever. Made from the smoothest suede we’ve ever felt, and a rich shade of blue that will go with anything in her closet—trust us, mom will adore it!

GM Studio LA The Tote Sac, $310, gmstudiola.com

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Known for their sleek watches, Barbas & Zacári also create beautiful sunglasses that will keep mom looking stylish as ever! Plus, a portion of each sale is donated towards cancer research.

Barbas & Zacári Rhodes Sunglasses, $57, barbasandzacari.com

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Bracelets made with contemporary style in mind, mom can stack these high-grade precious stones together or with her favorite bracelets and watches. We love the small gold-plated charms found on each piece!

Part Human And Machine Marble With Freshwater Pearl, $110.95, Double Matte Black With Triple Gold Spike, $119.95, parthumanandmachine.com

fairydust

Two words: fairy dust! Mom wants to look and feel her best too, so give the gift of glow with ARTISANskin’s fairy dust. A subtle, yet effective highlighter that comes as a loose powder. With the tagline “warning: results are magical,” it’s hard to resist! If that doesn’t get you, the packaging will. It’s part science, part beauty, and completely natural.

ARTISANskin Fairy Dust, $19, artisanskinrevolution.com

 

Composure Magazine – Going Green Trend Story

See the full story here at ComposureMagazine.com!

Our top choice brands dedicated to eco-friendly practices just in time for Earth Day.

Story: Min A. Lee

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Who knew cork was so stylish and versatile! This artisan made handbag proves to us going green doesn’t compromise being fashion forward.

Rok Cork Sandie Cork Shoulder Purse Luxe, $201.26, rokcork.com

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Votch not only offers a sleek design with vegan leather straps, they also have eco-friendly packaging making their watches an instant favorite.

Votch Limited Edition Watch, $151, votch.co.uk

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These beautiful blocks are made from fallen walnut trees that would be considered waste-wood versus cutting down perfectly healthy ones.

Artifact Uprising Walnut Print Block, $18, artifactuprising.com

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This mix of minerals helps cleanse and balance your skin, aid in circulation and reduce muscle tension. Most importantly, this apothecary favorite only offers products that are vegan and cruelty-free.

ARTISANskin Mineral Soak, $10, artisanskinrevolution.com

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Being 100% recyclable, reusable and toxin free attracted us to Yuhme’s water bottles, but then to find out each bottle bought provides 6 months of clean water for a single person in Central Africa (in partnership with Water For Good) won us over for life.

Yuhme Reusable Water Bottle, $31, yuhme.se

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PHACE supports several environmental and social charities, and draws inspiration from endangered species which you can see in their motifs. This luxury line is also made from sustainable sources.

PHACE Feelin’ My Scales Knitted Sweater, phacecollective.com

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Brooklyn-based Miakoda provides modern and comfortable sportswear made from organic materials. Trust us, this hoodie would easily be your favorite go-to.

Composure Magazine – Schedraui Bags

Story from the 15th issue of Composure Magazine, print is available here
Read the full article at Composure Magazine.

The sisters behind Schedraui are spreading the love (and more than a little style) with their luxe handbag line.

Story by Min A. Lee

When Salvadoran and Lebanese sisters Grace and Stephanie Schedraui (pronounced Che-drow-ee) came together to create the perfect bag for any woman, it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. The challenges that arise with starting an independent brand can be daunting, but it didn’t phase them. Some would think working with family has its own difficulties, but “we grew up in a home where we were encouraged to dream big and work hard to achieve those dreams,” says Grace. “We were surrounded by a very positive environment where we were always challenged to learn and serve as much as possible.” With Stephanie’s fashion degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and Grace’s background in business and franchise management, they had the perfect balance of knowledge and skills to launch Schedraui in 2012.

The sleek design of a Schedraui bag is only surpassed by the incredibly high quality leather. “In our collections, you will always see leathers with beautiful embossing and soft textures,” says Grace. Initially, the sisters sourced materials from various places around the world, but they eventually moved their production to Italy, home to some of the finest artisans in the fashion industry.

But what really makes a Schedraui bag stand out against the rest are the beautiful, positive words engraved on them. From “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” to “Love will always be the answer,” each piece holds a bit of uplifting wisdom, a nod to their father’s influence. “What changed [my father’s] life and made him take a different path than the majority was reading motivational books and positive thinking,” says Grace. “Both he and my mom, they always encouraged us to work hard for our dreams, to be givers, to leave a legacy. So we decided we wanted to give those messages back to the people around us by engraving inspirational messages on every product of our brand.”

Schedraui bags definitely command attention visually, but with the inspirational story behind the line, the bags are even more appealing. Taking it a step further, a portion of each sale goes toward charitable causes, making it easy to become lifetime supporters of the brand. “Our parents founded this NGO in El Salvador named FUNDABECAS,” says Grace. “It was created to grant scholarships to Salvadoran children, to help them realize their dreams. So when we started our brand, we decided we wanted to build the habit of ‘giving back’ from the very first year of our company by donating a percentage of our sales to this foundation.”

As the Schedraui sisters continue to grow their label, they face financial and marketing challenges typical of an independent accessories brand. “One of our biggest challenges is moving to New York, knowing no one, and having to start our brand from zero in a new market,” says Grace. But she’s confident about her product. “Once they buy one, they are hooked for life because we offer excellent quality and craftsmanship. Also, our bags are very comfortable and functional, which is why our clients always come back to us.”

So the next time you find yourself looking for a new addition to your handbag collection, you just might want to consider Schedraui, knowing that you’re purchasing more than just an accessory. As one of their engraved handles says: “Be a light to others.”

Shop Schedraui at schedraui.com or Flying Solo in New York City. 

Composure Magazine – Valentine’s Day Picks

Read the full piece at Composure Magazine here.

Our favorite picks for this Valentine’s Day!

Story: Min A. Lee

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DressAbstract Reversible Trench (Limited Production), $595, dressabstract.com

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Klasse14 Volare Dark Rose Watch with Mesh Band, $245, klasse14.com

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Gorilla Socks in Mr. Pink, $16, gorilla-socks.com

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Rozaliya Chakra4 Rose Quartz Earrings, $790, rozaliya-jewelry.com

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WOODZEE Lily Wood Sunglasses, $100, woodzee.com

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HOTLIPS by Solange Ring in Bombshell Red, $95, hotlipsbysolange.com

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Martial Vivot New York Beard & Face Oil, $48, martialvivot.com

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Protect My Shoes Inserts in Rose Garden and Rogue, $19.95, protectmyshoes.com

 

Composure Magazine – The New Neutral

Trend story for Composure Magazine from the latest print issue currently available here

The New Neutral: Take a softer approach to the season with variations on one of Pantone’s spring colors of the year, hazlenut.

Story by Min A. Lee

Full Article here.

Composure Magazine – 88 Handbags & VEERAH

Written for Composure Magazine:

Trying to be more environmentally responsible for 2017? Try eco-friendly accessories from 88 Handbags and VEERAH to get a jumpstart on your New Year’s fashion resolutions.

STORY: Min A. Lee

While fast fashion may be a dominant force in the marketplace, in recent years, there’s been a gradual shift towards slow and ethical labels. As this trend continues to grow, those in the know are taking a second look at the vegan approach to leather, a material noted for its luxuriousness. While some fashion lovers may find it hard to stray from the genuine deal, a couple of accessory labels are working to produce quality vegan leather that can feel and look just as luxe: 88 Handbags and VEERAH Footwear.

No small amount of research and travel went into creating bags and shoes that would sway die-hard leather fans and impress editors and consumers everywhere. Indeed, just one touch reveals that there really is a fine line between faux and real that’s starting to disappear. At times, I wasn’t able to tell if what I was holding was actual leather or not. “As well as being environmentally friendly, it has to look and feel great,” says Alexander Fowler, the founder of 88 Handbags. “It has to have durability, as we want people to love our bags for years. Also, it needs to be affordable so it can be economically viable as we hope it will become an industry standard in the future. We have solved all the challenges except getting the handfeel right, which we are working on now and are hoping to have it ready soon.”

Now, you may think faux leather equals more pollution, but that’s not necessarily the case. 88 Handbags is constantly working towards an earth-friendly solution. “While extraordinarily challenging, we’ve been working for over a year on water-based PU, which would have zero environmental impact,” says Fowler. As for VEERAH founder Stacey Chang, she travels the world to source materials and keep her line ethical. “We were able to find silky fabrics made out of recycled plastic bottles, breathable organic cotton for sock lining, and memory foam cushions that replace 20 to 50 percent of the petroleum typically used with a substitute derived from castor beans,” she explains.

Though the materials are a huge part of what makes these brands fit the eco-friendly category, it’s also the lifestyle they promote while building their brands. Their missions and passions go beyond just producing timeless fashion.

Social causes are important to Chang, and the VEERAH team incorporate a “giving back and self-improvement” mentality. Chang says she created VEERAH to “merge style, quality, compassion, and functionality for women today, who we refer to as #VEERAHwarriors.” To that end, she’s implemented an in-house 1-10-100 Battle Plan: At least 1 percent of VEERAH’s proceeds go to social impact causes (She’s The First, shesthefirst.org, is their current non-profit partner); their employees are paid to do 10 hours of volunteer work and/or improvement courses each month; and for every 100 feedback interviews they conduct, VEERAH sponsors a one-year scholarship for a She’s The First girl scholar. “We aim to grow together and give back,” says Chang.

For 88, they consider their label a “part of a movement,” where everyone works together to create a better world, whether by donating to charities favored by their customers or by sending a message in their choice of fashion. “We hope that by wearing our brand people will look good and also proudly be displaying their values and beliefs in the sanctity of life and the planet we live on,” says Fowler. “A handbag is a very personal purchase as it is a daily workhorse. We believe that by using an 88 handbag you are proudly telling the world that you are committed to a better and more enlightened world.”

And while the lure of fast fashion is strong — after all, being able to buy a $15 pair of shoes every season is hard to pass up — it doesn’t stop VEERAH and 88 from pushing for affordable items that will rise above the fickle nature of trends. 88 keeps prices competitive by being direct-to-consumer with no middleman markups, and they calculate the value to the consumer by its timeless quality and durability. “We don’t want you to use our bag for a few weeks and then throw it away,” says Fowler. “We want you to love her, treasure her, and have her with you for years. We would rather people consume responsibly. In a world where no one needs more stuff, we believe that people are beginning to expect fashion to do more than make them look and feel good. While fashion has to do that, we also believe that it has to do more.”

VEERAH offers a unique way to keep pace with changing tastes: interchangeable, multi-functional accessories that come with each pair of classic VEERAH shoes. This allows you to “multiply your look whenever you need a change,” says Chang. “Buying a pair of VEERAH heels is equivalent to buying multiple pairs of shoes. Our customers can stay fashionably current and maintain a classic sophistication all at once.”

As ethical fashion grows, 88 and VEERAH strive to create high-end quality that will continue to promote changes in lifestyle. Even though you’ll find beautiful designs on 88’s website, [where they sell exclusively to keep costs down], to them it’s about much more. “We are excited about the growing understanding and acceptance of veganism and environmental care,” says Fowler. We wanted to have a voice to promote those movements to bring together people who share the same values. This is about much more than selling handbags. We see awareness and engagement growing every day, as we put our energy on ethics and sustainability.”

While Chang is also optimistic about the future of sustainable styles, she knows that in fashion, the message is not enough. “It is a brand’s job to bring high quality, great design to market,” she says. “Customers are smart and savvy. They will not shop your label just because you are ethical and sustainable. First, you must have well-made, relevant products. Then you can better raise awareness on the impact that one can make — both good and bad. Once people obtain more awareness, this will lead to change on the other side in manufacturing. In turn, I hope it will also become easier to source high quality, eco-conscious materials.”

. . .

Be your own designer with 88 Handbags!

In a collaborative effort, 88 is offering you the opportunity to participate in creating a handbag. Check 88-eightyeight.com for their February contest — send in your design for a chance to see it in their fall 2017 collection!

88 Handbags are available at 88-handbags.com.

To shop for VEERAH, visit VEERAH.com or schedule a private appointment in their Manhattan studio in Greenwich Village by sending an e-mail to veerahwarriors@veerah.com.

Read the full article here.

Composure Magazine – High Shine Trend

In the current print issue of Composure Magazine available now. High Shine trend story.

Winter’s favorite shades get a glossy update.

Story by Min A. Lee

Composure Magazine – Perla Formentini

From Composure Magazine’s latest print issue available now. Article regarding footwear designer/brand Perla Formentini.

An excerpt:

Perla Formentini’s sophisticated footwear line brings European It-girl style to the U.S.

STORY BY MIN A. LEE

For such a sophisticated line with international appeal, Perla Formentini’s shoes are inspired by something very close to her heart: home.

“We are surrounded by renowned Italian art and architecture,” says co-founder Bianca Tse of Marche, Italy, an idyllic, hilly region on the eastern Italian coast. “Even the Mediterranean buildings we walk by every day are works of art. It’s inevitable that our surroundings are reflected in our color palette and in our leathers.”

Whether a sepia-toned metallic sheen or cutout patterns inspired by the history of the Italian city, each Perla Formentini shoe, which range from ballet flats to heeled boots, reference a quality from their hometown. And while the shoes don’t necessarily follow current trends — the classic silhouettes have a timeless appeal — the designs are still modern: silver hardware keeps sandals edgy and high-shine leather amps up a pair of oxfords that are anything but traditional.

Of course, Italian leathers alone can break budgets, but what sets Perla Formentini apart is their ability to provide high-end luxury at an affordable price. Because they keep their manufacturing in-house, this gives them “the unique ability to ensure high quality materials for shoes at a contemporary price point,” says Tse. Not only does this help set the brand apart from competitors, it also gives women a chance to own some exceptional shoes without that all too familiar feeling of shopper’s remorse.

To read the full article head over to ComposureMagazine.com