If the shoe fits…

10 October 2007

I come from a long line of shopaholics: my great-grandmother was addicted to diamonds, my grandmother loved Gucci handbags and my older sister loves, well, pretty much everything. My vice is shoes, always has been and always will be. Perhaps I could blame my obsession with shoes on my height (being only 5 ft 3″ there are times when you long to be able to look people in the eye rather than the torso and heels are a very useful aid) or my shoe size (with size 3.5 feet its easy to find great shoes just about anywhere, usually in the sale). But I think I love them because no matter what your feeling or how many chocolate mini rolls you’ve popped into your mouth, shoes still fit, still make you feel great and still look fantastic. On my gap year I spent my first ever real pay-cheque on a pair of £350 Christian Louboutin shoes and I haven’t looked back. Whilst I adore those shoes and wear them to death, I still tremble at the thought of the eye-wateringly expensive price-tag that accompanied them and even now don’t really like admitting it to people. That being said, they were the best purchase I ever made because I earned the money to pay for them at a time in my life when I first experiencing true independence and I am reminded of that every time I slip my feet into their delicious leather.

However, although shoes will always be the love of my life, it doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy brief flirtations with other delicacies. Tops, bags, skirts, dresses, jeans, hats…they have all been prone to lead me astray and despite my best efforts I can’t help but surrender. Of course, by giving in and claiming something as my own I invariably have to part with some shiny coins or bits of paper that those in the trade refer to as “money”. Ah, money…it can’t buy you love but it can buy shoes. However, in the Primark era of today money seems to be less relevant than ever before as now anyone can get a designer look for a mere £8. Since the late Eighties, the price we pay for womenswear has dropped by nearly 40 per cent and menswear by more than 10 per cent.

But who doesn’t love a bargain? The thrill of getting something for (almost) nothing is just too tempting to resist and high street chains have been flourishing whilst the big fashion houses are struggling to keep up. Prada, one of the most established fashion houses, has been desperately trying to keep its head above water for years now but no-one would ever know as their advertising campaigns remain glamourous and their prices stay high. After all, they have a 94-year old brand name to protect and if they lose their status, they may as well not exist at all. The fashion industry relies on brand names and whether it’s Prada or Primark, each store is supposedly geared towards a certain market.

But the problem is that although 20 years ago any true fashionista wouldn’t be seen dead in a designer knock-off from Zara, now the highstreet has acquired the kudos and reputation that attracts absolutely everyone. Indeed, it adds fashion points to your quota if your outfit consists of a tasteful ensemble of highstreet and designer, and thus even the rich and famous are joining us mere mortals queuing up in Topshop, where deliveries are made twice a day. Clothes fly in and out of shops so quickly that they barely hit the rails and as a result Britain seems to be bingeing on disposable fashion…loving something one day and discarding it the next. The nation’s closets are suffering from their own obesity crisis and mine has never been fatter. Women now buy twice as many clothes as they did a decade ago, and men are not far behind, which provides some explanation as to how 900,000 tonnes of textiles find their way into the nation’s landfills each year. Suddenly, the real cost of cheap clothes seems altogether more expensive and fellow shopaholics and I might have to consider taking up a different competitive sport. For now, I’m putting my cash card back in my purse, sending my wardrobe on a diet and closing my eyes as I walk past the shoe department.