Capturing style is a talent. A talent that Gabrielle Chanel possessed instinctively more than anyone else, knowing what would make all the difference to a silhouette. In 1957, after she’d already made the little black dress, the tweed braided suit and the quilted handbag – all essentials in women’s wardrobes – Mademoiselle Chanel decided to add a new note to a woman’s allure: two-tone shoes. “They are”, she said, “the height of elegance.” As ever, her vision was just right, straight to the point and obvious.
This time it took the form of the beige and black slingback shoe, studied from heel to toe, made to be worn with every look and for every occasion. “We step out in the morning in beige and black, we eat lunch in beige and black, we go to a cocktail party in beige and black. One is dressed from morning to night!”, she said at the time. This shoe boasts another big advantage, its colours: the beige lengthens the leg while the black shortens the foot. With a sense of practicality anchored in every one of her creations, Gabrielle Chanel had also decided to use this graphic detail to protect the tip of her pump from weather and wear. The 5cm-high heel of this shoe ensured a comfort that fitted perfectly with women’s new lifestyles.
With this accessory the designer imposed a veritable stylistic rupture. Until then shoes had been in one colour, often matching the colour of an outfit, but Gabrielle Chanel liberated women from the rigid codes of an antiquated elegance. “The new Cinderella slipper” as the press called it, seduced the whole world. She quickly perfected her creation, providing extra comfort. With the help of her favourite shoemaker Massaro, the slingback strap became elasticated. Working from this timeless foundation, subtly different coloured versions saw the light of day: beige leather with a toe cap in navy or brown or gold. “With four pairs of shoes I can travel the world,” she’d say. The logic was unstoppable. Over the seasons, the heel has become straighter or thinner, the tip more rounded or more pointed.
Obviously, when he arrived as head of the House in 1983, Karl Lagerfeld brought the emblematic two-tone pump back to life again. He never stopped reinventing it, renewing its shape, playing with the endless possibilities that this incredibly simple idea had to offer. Thus from 1986, he revisited the two-tone pump as a ballet slipper, immediately creating a new essential in the CHANEL wardrobe. With infinite creativity he transformed it into sandals, boots, brogues, thigh boots, espadrilles, sneakers. The designer created daring colour combinations and played with materials: patent, quilted and iridescent leather, suede, satin, denim and of course, tweed. At the Fall-Winter 2015/16 Ready-to-Wear show, he paid tribute to Gabrielle Chanel’s original slingback and each look was perfectly well-heeled.
Founded in 1894, the House of Massaro, who made the famous two-tone shoe in 1957 at the behest of Gabrielle Chanel, joined CHANEL’s Métiers d’art in 2002. Since then, the shoemaker has never stopped collaborating with the House, and continues to respond to the desires of the Creation studio, pushing its savoir-faire ever further to create the most inventive yet elegant shoes.
Today, Virginie Viard continues to enrich the stylistic vocabulary of CHANEL’s two-tone pump. The Artistic Director reinvents it with every collection, fusing allure with modernity, following in the footsteps of Gabrielle Chanel. Thus for the Spring-Summer 2020 Ready-to-Wear runway show, certain silhouettes were punctuated with flat two-tone slingback sandals, combining suede or sequins with grosgrain.
At the Paris – 31 rue Cambon 2019/20 Métiers d’art show, a veritable celebration of the codes so dear to the founder of the House, most of the silhouettes were accessorised with two-tone pumps in gold leather with a black toe cap and a little bow, made by the House of Massaro.