Tabitha Simmons is the shoe designer who crossed the Atlantic, crossed sides and is currently one of the fashion world’s favourites. Now based in New York, she is originally from the UK where she began her first career after completing her studies. Rather unusually for someone who has made a name for herself in luxury footwear, Tabitha first earned her stripes as an equally talented stylist. As a stylist –something that has continued in parallel to running her own label- she rapidly gained recognition and became a regular contributor to magazines like Dazed & Confused and Another. A contributing editor to Vogue, a fashion director at V Magazine and a successful shoe designer are not usually the same person, though this has been the reality in the case of Tabitha whose styling talents remain in high demand. That’s not really surprising given that she has styled catwalk shows for Calvin Klein, Alexander McQueen, and Zac Posen and collaborated with top photographers such as Craig McDean, Glen Luchford and Steven Klein.
But, on the foot front, Tabitha produces beautiful shoes that make even the least fashion conscious of women turn into doe-eyed girly creatures filled with the desire to own them. Though always entirely contemporary, there is nonetheless something classical about Tabitha’s sensibility, a faint whiff of retro chic that draws upon the iconic shapes and forms of women’s footwear fashions through the ages. Perhaps it’s this special thing, the sense of connecting with all the mythical women of style who came before, that makes her shoes so appealing.
One feature of her current collection, for example, is the scooped-out wedge heel that combines the practicality of solid support with the elegant concave curve of the outer edge, bringing in a sense of swirling movement and belying the solid nature of the heel itself. This makes the style highly practical whilst giving a sense of transparency and implying that the wearer is capable of walking on air. And, there is something about it that also connects with tradition. The heel form is highly reminiscent of the shoes that the legendary Salvatore Ferragamo made for Hollywood film stars in the 1940’s and 1950’s, as are some of Tabitha’s striking colour combinations of suede. In selecting a shoe such as the two-tone ‘Clodagh Sunburn’ from the current collection, a woman connects, maybe subconsciously, with the iconic cavalcade, the long list of role models who presented an image of elegance and aspiration to so many generations of women.
A little nostalgia can do no harm, but a descent into sentimentality is hardly helpful for the contemporary professional woman with a busy life. And needless to say that a designer like Tabitha Simmons who understands the needs of women well, also offers the same notion in variations perhaps better suited to the lifestyle and tastes of those with less time to simply look glamorous. For example, the same classic heel style can also be found on the natty ‘Chiara’ ankle boot that offers practical protection in pony or suede. Or there’s the big sister, ‘Carolyn’, a knee-high boot with asymmetrical button details that will keep one’s legs warm when the big chill sets in.