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Whistles women: Katie Baron
Katie Baron boasts almost as many impressive titles as she does shoes; fashion features editor, trend forecaster, architectural consultant and published author are just some of the highlights of her curriculum vitae. On a warm spring Sunday afternoon, we visited the self-confessed shoe hoarder in her refined Stoke Newington apartment. The modern space houses a colourful library of books which lead the way into a minimal sun drenched living space.
Her taste in footwear is reminiscent of her interest in architecture. Sculptural sandals and skyscraper heels are omnipresent upon the custom-made shelves that were built lovingly by her husband to house her ever-growing collection.
Your book celebrates the role of the stylist – what are your top tips for styling an outfit when it comes to shoes?
The shoes should be part of the thought process from the very beginning. Never work out an outfit then choose shoes as an afterthought. When I travel, I always carry one outfit and the shoes I think work with them in my hand luggage - I’d find wearing the wrong shoes as tough as wearing someone else’s clothes!
What pair of shoes do you feel most powerful in?
I’d say anything with a heel height of 4 inches or, preferably, upwards! Does that sound too dominatrix? If so it’s probably not a total coincidence! I’m quite short so I find the extra height quite empowering. A friend and former colleague of mine, Katherine Omerod (senior fashion and news editor at Grazia) used to call me the Queen of Kink! If I had to choose a specific pair, right now, probably my just over the knee Alaia suede boots. In a couple of months it’ll be classic Parisian style courts – usually with baggy trousers of some sort.
A friend of mine admitted to hiring someone based on shoe choice alone - what do you think a pair of shoes tells you about a person?
There’s a lot of personality involved in footwear. Lots of people are bound to various levels of etiquette in their daily lives, especially at work, but shoes are often the place where that pressure is released a little, where you get a glimpse of what they’re really about!
Tell us about your bespoke shoe shelves?
My husband Ben built the shoe shelves for me as a surprise while I was away on a work trip to Delhi. It was partly as a birthday present and partly because he was in serious danger of being maimed by tripping over a rogue pair of Miu Miu's on his way to the loo in the middle of the night. I consequently loved the idea of being able to have everything on display, and to hand, as fashion editors/stylists do when shooting. I also write about retail strategy and design, so it's basically a bit of a micro-merchandising!
What are your tips for surviving skyscraper heels?
I think I need assistance on that one! I’ve bought way too many shoes in sample sales that are basically bar shoes – only good for evenings where you can wangle a taxi there, sit down all night, then get a taxi straight home. Severe headache-inducing offenders that I convince myself will be more wearable the next time (never happens). For days/nights that promise a bit more adventure then it has to be shoes with a hidden platform and/or a non-stiletto heel.
We love the curation of your shoes on display in your bookshelf
I reconcile spending money on shoes with the idea that they’re an investment; having a beautiful pair of sculptural-looking shoes on display is like having a small piece of art at home. The fact you can wear them too is effectively, in fashion terms, like having your cake and eating it.
Is there a shoe type you wouldn't be seen dead in?
Absolutely: slipper style loafers – way too chichi for me. It’s a look I’d neither dare nor want to try and pull off. I find mid-height heels tricky, too. They can look great on other women but when it comes to footwear, like most things actually, I’m not keen on half measures. I’m either in completely flat shoes – classic trainer design like converse or a pair of Nike mid-tops (last trainer purchase) or really high, sculptural heels.