Where were you when you first laid eyes on a pair of Stuart Weitzman Nudist sandals?
I ask mostly because I can’t remember. As far as red carpet trends are concerned, the past few years have been a blur of simple two-strap sandals — not only from Weitzman, but also from brands like Givenchy and Miu Miu, though the style began its world domination following the Nudist’s introduction at resort 2013. The popularity of these shoes is a well-documented phenomenon, and yet at the start of awards season this year, I found myself both shocked at the sustained strength of their presence and, from the skewed perspective of someone who reports on the rapid churn of designer collections for a living, a little skeeved out that celebrities and stylists hadn’t moved on yet. How much longer could they possibly have?
In hindsight, I had been associating the sandals too closely with the resurgence of ’90s-inflected minimalism, viewing them as part of an aesthetic current that would fade after a few seasons, and not as their own entity. Because if you ask stylists, the shoes are going to be making the rounds for a long, long while.
“They make the leg look very long, they don’t distract from the look, they’re comfortable, they’re delicate, they’re feminine, they’re wearable,” says Jeanann Williams, who styles actresses like Naomi Watts and Kathryn Hahn. The $395 Nudist has proven to be such a reliable, versatile shoe that she has a Rubbermaid box filled with pairs in various colors and sizes, in case another pair doesn’t work out.
“We call it the ‘Giving Sandal,'” says Kara Smith, who styles Emma Roberts with her sister Brit. “It allows the outfit to do most of the talking.”
The outfit, or the client’s hair and accessories. Red carpet isn’t like runway or editorial: Less tends to be more, and a minimalist sandal won’t compete with a strong dress or piece of statement jewelry. More often than not, Williams says, the clothes take center stage and shoes need to fall to the back. Answering my question directly, she says she doesn’t expect to see the Nudist and its cousins from other brands fading away any time soon.
“I don’t get sick of seeing them them. Maybe it’s a bit boring, but I don’t because I get where the stylist is coming from. It’s effortless. Sometimes you need to do what works,” Williams says.
The style, she and Smith say, has reached the point where it’s a classic, like a pointy-toed pump. Nobody gets mad about seeing a Louboutin on the red carpet, and it looks like the Nudist is heading in the same direction.
“With all these interviews, there’s the concern that I’ll always be known as the ‘Nudist guy,'” Stuart Weitzman says, somewhat jokingly, by phone.
Weitzman designed the style out of a desire to create a shoe that would work on the red carpet regardless of what dress the client decided to wear; like many designers, he’d felt the frustration of losing out on a red carpet placement because a stylist decided to change the look entirely at the last minute. Clearly, the plan worked. Although he describes the Nudist as “the perfect shoe” and has built out similar styles with different heels, materials and platform thicknesses, he knows better than anyone that trends are cyclical and that the eye tires of seeing one style over and over again. Consumer exhaustion happens more quickly than it used to, he says, as social media and digital marketing have closed the gap between the public and the industry.
“I would be surprised if we see even half as many of them this year as we’ve seen in the past,” he says, referring to the Nudist’s red carpet popularity. That’s not an admission of defeat. Quite the opposite, in fact: Weitzman’s company, like Williams and Smith, is simply looking at it as a core style.
“Today it’s one of our iconic shoes, which means it’s a good seller, but we’re not counting on it to be our number one,” Weitzman says.