Updated: Apr 4, 2022
This article was created to encapsulate my 4 years of research related to the development and innovations of the footwear industry. I want to encapsulate with images and personal reflections what I have found, studied and understood also thanks to the research process done for @iHeel.
I will divide my research into 4 articles:
3) current evolutions of heels (the new hybrids)
4) heels and engineering, the new horizons
Since I approached the world of footwear thanks to the work we do every day with @iheel, I realized how much the market tastes and the creative and commercial development of this sector have largely evolved. When I talk about "evolution" I am referring to both the needs of the end consumer and the new engineering applications that are happening a lot on both sneakers (for the most part) and heels. This will be the new frontier of footwear in my opinion: applied engineering.
The history of the footwear industry has gone from the long tradition of bespoke production to the mechanization of craftsmanship, and today both challenges and opportunities are dictated by automated manufacturing and 3D printing.
After illustrating the evolution of heeled footwear up to 2016, today we're going to understand how from 2016 to now heels have evolved. We're going to see a lot of images because I strongly believe they can have more impact than text alone.
In the next and final article we will find out what has happened since 2012 in the industry, the new products with functional innovations that have been created and the impact they have on the end user.
We know very well that fashion thinks in "cycles" (more aesthetic than anything else); I would like to specify that here we will not deal with this type of argument but rather with the "technological" evolution that the market is demanding from the sector due to an extremely concrete need linked to practicality.
Few steps have been taken in this direction, in fact, fashion continues to reason exclusively on the basis of an approach to innovation that is purely aesthetic and never functional.
Today we will see which one.
Current evolutions of heels (the new hybrids)
Let's start with the "what" first and then we'll figure out the "why.".
What has changed in recent years regarding heels?
In what direction are brands moving to try to keep up with the times?
I invite you to linger a few seconds on each image and visualize every detail:
heel height, size, style..we'll comment them together afterwards.
In the images above you can see how heels for everyday use are slowly transforming. From a "bon-ton" shoe to a real hybrid between sneaker and heel.
Here I would like to share a reflection with you and get to the "why" of this great change.
First of all I can't help but share the core of our research in 4 years and that is that: through market studies, we have come to understand that heeled shoes represent a passion for millions of women but wearing them in everyday life is impractical, uncomfortable and very painful.
Women today no longer perceive elegance as it once was, they prefer a comfortable and practical style to move from one commitment to another and for this reason they are tired of suffering the pain of a heel that is identical to 200 years ago (structurally speaking).
Of course, shapes change, aesthetic canons also... but look at heels... they all tend to be big, comfortable, with particular shapes and above all quite low.
This explains why the trend of sneakers is destined to continue ... until heels do not adapt to this need, women will not find the answer to their need.
What will be the future of heels?: this is the last question with which we conclude this article and it will be an introduction to the last chapter of research in which I will talk about the latest structural innovations that concern heels.
The future I see is a future full of possibilities for women, a future where heels will start to adapt to people's needs through technology and innovation. Some companies are already doing this but the change is still too slow, there are very few companies that are betting on a similar type of footwear, (in fact almost no one ..) and this in my opinion represents only a huge opportunity for all those who will arrive first, thus revolutionizing a static sector and (perhaps) still too traditionalist, without a real vision of the future and that, unfortunately, still refuses innovation.
It's ridiculous that you can pay in 2022 with a click from the other side of the world and then women still have to suffer the pain of heels during their daily life.
If you look at shoes from 1900, many of them are comparable to today's shoes... it's absurd from my point of view.
Provocative question: why do brands fight each other in a "design" war in a saturated red ocean where the same things are always proposed even years later, when there are totally new opportunities based on the concrete needs of the final consumer that no one is taking advantage of?