Chanel’s two-tone shoe, now a signature of the house, appeared in 1957. After designing timeless little black dresses, tweed tailoring, and quilted bags, Gabrielle Chanel completed her wardrobe essentials with these versatile and well designed shoes to wear from morning to night.
In 1937, almost 20 years before their official launch, the famous shoes had already appeared on Coco Chanel’s feet, in a signature black and white silhouette, pictured here with the Ballets Russes star Serge Lifar, whom she befriended after meeting him in 1924, on the set of Train Bleu.
With a special attention to detail, Gabrielle Chanel designed Chanel’s two-tone shoes in beige, to elongate their shape, and black, to shorten the foot and protect the toe from long-term wear. A new ally of women’s fashion, the five-centimetre heel ensured stability and comfort.
A shoe dubbed “Cinderella’s New Slipper”
Once again, the designer broke codes and liberated women from the constraints imposed upon them: shoes, until then monochrome, had to be taken to the tailors. Rapidly seducing many of the house’s loyal customers, including Romy Schneider, Chanel’s two-tone shoes were adorned with an elastic strap and released in a wide colour palette, created by the shoemaker Massaro. It was then that the ubiquitous slingback was born.
The savoir-faire of an exceptional shoe
Even today, Chanel creates these two-tone objects of desire alongside the shoemaker Massaro. From his arrival at the head of the house in 1983, Karl Lagerfeld immortalised the shoes with their savoir-faire, never ceasing to reinvent them, notably in the form of ballerina pumps in 1986, now a cult item, and as sandals, boots, Oxfords, and espadrilles, exuding creativity.
“It’s the most modern shoe and makes legs look beautiful,” Karl Lagerfeld said about the two-tone heel. For the fall/winter ready-to-wear 2015-2016 show, the designer paid homage to Gabrielle Chanel’s original 1957 shoe, in a delicate and contemporary interpretation.
Founded in 1894, Massaro has contributed to the success of the two-tone shoe since 1957 at Gabrielle Chanel’s side, and has been a member of the Métiers d’art since 2002. An exceptional know-how brought to life at the Creation Studio, it is now led by artistic director Virginie Viard since February 2019.
Whether in the form of laced heels for the fall/winter 2020-2021 haute couture collection, Mary Janes for resort 2021, or adorned with an elegant knot for the Métiers d’art 2019-2020 show, the two-tone shoe has lost none of its excellence. It remains a classic which transcends the seasons and remains an integral part of Chanel’s essence.
This story was originally published on Vogue France.