July 19, 2012 at 12:33 PM ET
One of this year’s hottest trends won’t be found in your closet or your jewelry box, but on the bottoms of your shoes. Soles — yes, as in shoe soles — are this year's fashion frontier. From stickers to paint-your-sole kits, the bottom of your footwear is now the place to customize, personalize or imitate top designers.
The trend started a few years back when women realized they could emulate renowned shoe designer Christian Louboutin’s famous red soles by painting the bottoms of their shoes red with ordinary paint or nail polish. One U.K. hardware store recently reported that sales of red paint have surged 40 percent over last year, thanks to customers looking to recreate the look on lower-cost heels.
Louboutin’s soles, which instantly identify the brand, have even sparked lawsuits around the world, with Louboutin trying to protect his look. Now other designers are cashing in on the trend, trying to set themselves apart by coming out with soles in their own unique colors, like designer Chloe Green's line for Topshop this spring, which featured light green soles.
Footwear accessory brand Rosso Solini's sole stickers are less about imitating a designer look than about standing out from the crowd. In addition to its uber-popular firetruck red, Rosso Solini offers a range of 20 stickers in animal patterns, glitter and other bright colors, like blue, which has proved to be a big hit with brides.
“With Rosso Solini, people can easily make a simple shoe look more expensive, or dress up their favorite pair of old shoes,” founder Tara Haughton, 17, told TODAY.com. “You can put it on yourself, it’s easy to try and affordable.”
Haughton, who lives in Ireland, designed the stickers as part of a school project, and two years later the company has customers in 22 countries through its website, with its biggest fans in Brazil. Haughton will mark her official U.S. debut with an appearance on QVC Sept. 4, selling her set of three instant shoe soles ($26, rossosolinishop.com). The stickers are made with 3M materials and some of the packs include a knife for cutting around the adhesive.
“Personalization is becoming more and more prevalent, and in fashion in particular,” Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group, told TODAY.com. “People used to be able to splurge, but with today’s economy, consumers are saying, 'Forget that; I will just paint my soles red.' In addition, people don’t necessarily want to look like everyone else. This trend toward customizing soles isn’t just about looking impressive, but about the ability to make something unique.”
For others who want a more designer look, many shoemakers in large cities like New York and Los Angeles offer the option of fitting red soles. Or you can turn to Save Your Sole, which sells shoe soles and paint in nine colors, including cream, blue, and its ever-popular red. The soles need to be attached by a shoemaker, but the color will last until the sole wears out, unlike paint, which can flake off after a short walk on the pavement.
Save Your Sole founder Amanda Collins started the company two years ago to save her own trove of designer shoes, and quickly expanded the business, with the U.S. soon to overtake the U.K. as her biggest market. Sales of her Red Sole Gift Set, which includes red soles, touch-up paint and a paintbrush, have increased by 25 percent in the last month alone (SaveYourSole.co.uk, $45.95).
In the coming months, the company will release other colors like pink and purple, and she's now in talks with Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys and other high-end retailers about stocking her products.
But this trend isn't just for women! Even TODAY’s Matt Lauer has gotten in on it, appearing on TODAY in orange-soled Joe Fresh brogues on Wednesday (JoeFresh.com, $99).
What do you think? Would you consider painting your shoe soles? Let us know!
Rachel Elbaum is a London-based writer who plans to sport purple polka dots on her favorite heels.