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Brought to heel

Updated: 2023-12-22 08:13 ( CHINA DAILY )
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Women in Shanghai opt for comfortable footwear like sneakers. [Photo provided to China Daily]

On the flip side, designer high-heeled shoe brand Jimmy Choo saw a 7 percent reported decline in revenue in the second quarter of its fiscal year 2024, according to Capri Holdings Ltd in November. The corporation attributed the dip to "softening consumer demand".

In a 2021 Bloomberg article, Stephanie Clairet, divisional merchandise manager for fashion accessories and shoes at Printemps, was quoted as saying that other shoe brands, including Louboutin, Sergio Rossi, and Stuart Weitzman, also saw a decline in sales of elegant shoes in 2020.

In the same article, Sandra Choi, the creative director of Jimmy Choo, was quoted as saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a part to play in the shift toward more comfortable footwear.

"Lately, my line of shoes is all trainers," said Choi. "I foresee that I want everything to be even more comfortable. I don't think glamour needs to be just on heels."

Xu Xingzhi, associate professor of Shanghai International College of Fashion and Innovation, Donghua University, says this trend signals a redefinition of traditionally gendered styles between generations.

Xu points out that women, especially those who belong to Generation Z, are less inclined to wear high heels regularly, because their focus is on wellness, self-expression and personal empowerment instead of matching the cookie-cutter model of success in modern society.

She also notes that today's youth have less need for the added height heels provide as average heights have increased. Research published in medical journal The Lancet claims that between 1985 and 2019, Chinese women aged 19 were, on average, six centimeters taller at 163.5 centimeters.

Conversely, heel heights have been declining for almost a decade, according to an article by Fashion Network.

"From 2012 to 2015, heel heights greater than 100 millimeters still dominated Kurt Geiger's sales, generating around 60 percent of its turnover. However, looked at from 2013 to 2020, the most popular heel height was in the range of 75mm to 95mm," the article notes.

The topic of wearing high heels is one that has been widely discussed on Chinese social media sites like Xiaohongshu, or Little Red Book, and Weibo. Many of these posts feature photos that seemingly prove how only a handful of commuters today wear high heels or formal shoes to work.

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