As regular readers of this blog know I have a little problem with shoes. The problem, of course, is that I adore shoes, and the more unique they are the more I love them. When I was in London over Christmas I found the most wonderful shoe company called Irregular Choice. When I walked into the store on Carnaby Street I almost felt tears of joy forming, and it was in that store that I fell in love. Not with a man, as I already happen to have one of those, but with a pair of shoes that made me feel weak in the knees. I snatched up those shoes as quickly as I could produce my credit card and brought them home to Canada. There they sat in their box for the next couple of months. I would occasionally take them out and caress them as I looked forlornly at the 4 feet of snow outside and sigh about not being able to wear them yet. When I was in Vancouver at the end of March, though, I knew opportunity was upon me and it was time to release these fabulous shoes in Canada. Where better than Vancouver, one of the most stylish and fashion-forward cities in the country?
So, one evening my sisters and aunt and I had tickets for a George Bernard Shaw play on Granville Street. This seemed like the ideal event. People often dress up for live theatre and I decided a dress and these shoes were the ideal attire. The sister that shared a room with me gave me the thumbs-up and so off we went to hit a couple of the stores on Granville before we met the rest of the gang for dinner and the theatre. I put on my shoes, and we stepped into the elevator.
Well, my friends, the reactions started the instant I stepped off the elevator into the lobby. At the reception desk were a young male and a young female employee. When I left the elevator they both instantly zoomed in on the shoes. Jaws dropped slightly, his just a fraction of an inch further than hers, and I knew that this was going to be an entertaining evening.
We hopped into a taxi and headed to Granville and one of my favourite stores, Plum. Getting out of the taxi and crossing the street was amusing as the stares were instantaneous. I entered the store and immediately was stopped by an employee who said "Oh my god, where did you get those SHOES?!?". She called over the other employees who all wanted to see the shoes up close. I tried on a few dresses, selected one, and as I was leaving the employee said "Keep on buying fabulous shoes!". My sister and I hit a few other stores and the reaction was always the same - an initial stare, a slight jaw drop, and then the question "Where?!?". We stopped for a coffee at Starbucks and my shoes were ogled by fellow coffee imbibers. The waitress at the lounge we dined at was thunderstruck by my shoes. One of my other sisters was meeting us and said she looked across the street and saw these incredible SHOES - and then looked up and realized it was me. She insisted on walking behind me for the rest of the night so she could record the reactions.
I had women stop me on the street to tell me how amazing they were, and to ask where I'd found them. After the play when we were trying to find a taxi a young homeless woman begging for change outside the theatre told me I had great shoes and when I told her where I had gotten them (she asked) she said she figured they weren't from Vancouver. When my sister and I went to the Fairmont Vancouver lounge later in the evening we overheard a man asking his female companion if she liked the shoes and if perhaps she could get a pair, too. We didn't hear her reaction, but I certainly would have liked to. Now, there were a couple of adverse reactions, mostly from elderly women who looked aghast (I figure it was just plain ol' jealousy).
The next morning I left the hotel early to grab a coffee at the Starbucks across the street. I was just leaving the lobby when I overheard a woman exclaiming to her male companion "That's her! That's the one I told you about last night - the one with the SHOES!". I suspect I smiled for hours after hearing that.
The funny thing is that there was a long period in my life when being the centre of such attention would have made me very uncomfortable. When I was in my teens and early twenties I was the sort who dyed her hair crazy kaleidoscope colours and wore nutty clothes, and who loved to be noticed. I went through many years, though, when I shrank inside myself a bit and when shoes and clothing became utilitarian and a chore. In the past couple of years, though, I underwent some pretty profound personal changes. I also rediscovered my love of great shoes and interesting clothing. It was like waking up after a long and very deep sleep, shaking off the last vestiges of slumber, and realizing how bright and exciting the world was. Suddenly being the centre of attention was fun again - and boy, did these shoes ever accomplish that. Now that they've been unleashed in Vancouver I can't wait to wear them in my northern Alberta city and see what kind of response they receive here (I'm expecting a bit more incredulity, but then again this city isn't really a fashion mecca). Oh, and my husband and I are planning another trip to Vancouver this summer - and, well, Vancouver, I'm coming prepared....