>> There are too many instances of me extolling the various pleasures of Salvatore Ferragamo's Vara shoe. Put Ferragamo in the search bar and ye shall find many oldy-woldy Style Bubble pics back in the days when I favoured a knee high sock and talked about wardrobes requiring cogs. I still think everyone's basics or essentials can wildly differ from person to person (for instance, does EVERYONE need a perfect white shirt? Not if you're prone to spag-bol-sauce spillage like me you don't...) but the Ferragamo Vara has a clever way of slipping into so many style contexts without shouting out its presence. I remember many a Teen Vogue editorial where some coltish actress would be wearing them with prom dresses, sparking my mini obsession circa 2004 with typing "tulle strapless prom dress" into eBay - that quickly ended when I realised my boobs wouldn't be able to hold said dresses up. Since then, I've seen Varas on Japanese Lolita girls normally in battered up white. I've seen them worn with ripped up jeans and a band t-shirt on one end of the spectrum and on the other, architectural Celine trousers and a voluminous top. The Vara is a veritable shoe cog, which can either smarten up and pull together an outfit or dress down something extravagant or directional.
It has to be said, I didn't cultivate a Vara addiction because I could afford to fling £300 or so on countless pairs of shoes. I rewind to Susie circa 2004 and all I avidly did do was search for old Vara's on eBay, where I got my first three pairs. Subsequently, ten more came to me through charity and vintage shop finds (the ones in Kensington and Chelsea always have Ferragamo's knocking about) and finally the real shebang bought in Ferragamo stores, where the cream carpet setting is almost too pristine to welcome the riff-raff likes of me.
Therefore, I was surprised to be asked to participate as part of Salvatore Ferragamo's super-official, super-elegant L'Icona project where 21 girls from around the world were photographed by esteemed Vogue alumna photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank, wearing their own customised pair of Varas. The list of participants reads like a Tatler party page and it's clear I'm something of a red herring on that list. Hey, I'll take that token Chinese Vara fan girl and run with it because of my unerring love for this shoe. I'm super chuffed with the resulting portrait namely because it combines a) a rainbow Vara cornucopia, which out-did my own personal collection of scuffed n' well-worn Varas b) a 200% gorge townhouse and b) an opportunity to reflect my own ways of wearing the Vara with my own clothes. It was a no-brainer to match up the turquoise of the shoe up with a Meadham Kirchhof jacket, the Jonathan Saunders knit and an old Balenciaga skirt.
The L'Icona site also ties in with Ferragamo's introduction of a Vara/Varina customisation site which I've been dying to try out since I first heard it was in the pipeline a few years ago. It didn't throw out neon shades of yellow or latex bows like it did in my dreams but it does have a well-thought out palette to choose from for the body of the shoe and then quite delicious combos for the heel and the bow (they both have to be the same colour...) as well as hardware options you're violently anti-silver or anti-gold. I suspect it's a work in progress though to bring Ferragamo out of its well-heeled self to truly embrace the infinite possibilities a classic shoe like the Vara can withstand. That said, maybe it's that "Mum's the word" quality which keeps me coming back. They happen to be the sort of shoes which my mum duly approves of, even if she's not quite sure about what's going on above the ankles.