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For the ultimate in cutting-edge designer shoes, thoughts initially tend to travel over to Paris (Louboutin, Pierre Hardy) or London (Nicholas Kirkwood and Charlotte Olympia). But we'd like to point out six New York City-based shoe designers that are getting it done right here at home. We're not talking about Steve Madden, Stuart Weitzman, or Kenneth Cole—the fabulous folks on our list design in NYC (although some manufacture internationally), are independently-owned, and have been in business for less than ten years. Of course, there's one big added bonus of shopping home-based designers: Home-based sample sales. Here we go.
1) Kathryn Amberleigh
FIT alum and former Catherine Malandrino intern Kathryn Kim started her one-of-a-kind, handcrafted line in 2007 and opened her flagship shop on Mott Street in Nolita. Kim's architecturally playful designs boast punchy hues, bold color mixes and whimsical, inventive embellishments. Plus, just because the shoes are handcrafted, that doesn't mean they have to be expensive. They run around $250 for boots and $150-ish for shoes, and during the last sample sale in November, pumps were priced as low as $35.
The Bori bootie shot on the streets of NYC via Tashkent by cheyenne
2) Tashkent by cheyenne
Designed by Manhattan-born and Brooklyn-based designer Cheyenne Morris, this five-year-old label is known for its luxe skins and embellishments and edgy, rocker-chic designs. The fancy footwear is designed in Brooklyn and handcrafted in Italy, requiring Morris to rack up plenty of frequent flier miles. Tashkent has also collaborated with a bunch of go-to downtown designers like Phillip Lim 3.1 and Lorick on their Fashion Week.
Locally, the label provides New Yorkers with fabulous blowout sample sales from time to time (we snagged the above Bori booties for a mere $125 at the last one). We also keep noticing knock-offs of the super-sexy Zidane cut-out platform ankle boot to this day. They say imitation is the best form of flattery, right?
Scenes from the Rachel Comey sample sale in December
3) Rachel Comey
Of course we have to mention the poster girl of Brooklyn-chic, Rachel Comey. She also has an apparel line, but it's really her footwear (including the famous clogs) that causes a frenzy. Funny thing is that Rachel actually started out as a menswear designer. Now Comey's footwear collection is stocked by all the arbiters of NYC cool: Bird, Oak, and Opening Ceremony. She also collaborated with Urban Outfitters to bring her downtown aesthetic to the masses. Her one-day sample sales always draw hipsters to midtown's far west no-man's-land and her shoes are always the number one draw.
Jenny Humphrey in Tania Spinelli over-the-knees via Bootlovers
4) Tania Spinelli
Since we just discussed low-key downtown style, let's go polar opposite with the flashy, sexy Hollywood-style of Tania Spinelli's eponymous line. The designer's resumé includes some impressive experience designing for local heroes Tommy Hilfiger and Diane Von Furstenberg. Lately, her strappy diva heels and over-the-knee boots have caught the eyes of tabloid fave Kim Kardashian and envelope-pushing teen terror Taylor Momsen (on and off-screen). And M.I.A. refreshingly sported a pair of relatively low-key pumps to a Time magazine dinner. Spinelli hasn't graced us with any sample sales yet, but her over-the-knee calf-zip boots (Little J. is a fan) are on sale at Edon Manor.
Sandal from the Spring 2011 collection via Be & D
5) Be & D
Be Inthavong and now Creative Director Steve Dumain started the Be & D label as a handbag line in 2004 and expanded with a shoe collection three years later. Along the way, the label garnered fans of the celeb variety, namely Leigh Lezark, Loubie-disciple Blake Lively and, oh hi again, Taylor Momsen. Be & D has also collaborated with a portfolio of designers on accessories and shoes, like the Spring 2011 Costello Tagliapietra runway show, where Steve Dumain gamely posed for our photo exposé on the Bears of Fashion.
Loads of shoes via Matt Bernson
6) Matt Bernson
Tribeca-based Matt Bernson is a fave amongst the coolly-chic downtown set who value comfort just as much as they crave sexy, fashion-forward footwear. Interestingly enough, the designer was a construction worker before starting his line in 2005. His collection of wedges, stacked heel boots, cozy oxfords, scrunchy ballet flats and, of course, the sandals are artisanally crafted and can be found at Steven Alan, Bird, Scoop—to name a few. Bernson's annual sample sale, where the coveted sandals are priced at a riot-inducing $40 a pair, are a near suffocating madhouse, but definitely worth the effort.