The “backless shoe” was first identified by Pinterest as a big fashion trend for 2017. An unlikely but influential trend forecaster, the image-sharing site analysts uncovered the key looks — which included “bell sleeves” and “multiple earrings” — by examining significant increases in saved searches from among the website’s 150m users: everything on the list hit at least 500,000 saves.
The backless shoe (which may also be described as a mule) has made its way from the catwalks and on to the feet (and Pinterest boards) of every fashion-forward woman this season. Found at Fendi, Gucci and The Row, the best pairs come with sleek nappa leather uppers and architectural heels, like Balenciaga’s Bistro style with a red lacquered heel entwined in rope, or Gabriela Hearst’s Pravato, with its block heel in geometric marquetry.
Hearst, whose shoe line has just launched at Matchesfashion.com, has included a mule in her collection for the past three seasons. But what is it that she loves about them so much?
“Number one, the comfort and the height,” she says of the heels, which rarely scale higher than three inches. “Number two: if you pair them with a long pant, it looks like a boot, which makes it more seasonless.”
Tory Burch, £325, net-a-porter.com
The backless shoe is a core product in several other new collections: accessories label Mansur Gavriel launched its debut shoe collection, for SS16, with a rainbow-array of suede, peep-toe mules: it offers versions in electric blue and mustard for SS17.
Gucci, £750, matchesfashion.com
Handbag designer Paula Cademartori launched her footwear line last summer; her collection includes backless loafers embellished with gems and crossover mules in teak leather with pastel pink, hand-painted heels. “Colour is such an important part of my creative style,” says the Brazilian-born designer. “So I decided to use strong colours for the shoes too, because I love a standout accessory — they’re fun, with a strong, visual impact.”
The mule stars also in the first shoe collection from Attico. The label, launched last season by the Italian street-style stars Giorgia Tordini and Gilda Ambrosio, will offer three styles for SS17: one slipper flat and androgynous, the other two have a curved, Louis Quatorze-style heel.
But how to wear the style now? “Go strong with architectural shapes, like Maison Margiela’s white block heel, which brings the right amount of 90s edge,” says Coco Chan, head of womenswear at Stylebop.com. “Or look to Fendi, where they are more futuristic than froufrou. The key is to trade in dainty for directional.”
Maison Margiela, £570, stylebop.com
And if you can’t bring oneself to bare an ankle just yet, take heed from Tibi founder Amy Smilovic. “Pair the mule with a sock or hosiery for a chic, but utterly functional twist,” she says. “It says you don’t take yourself too seriously, and that you enjoy having fun with fashion.” Style you can slip on? It couldn’t be simpler.