Monday, August 31, 2009

Cole Haan - things are looking up

I have always thought of American accessories retailer Cole Haan as the place that successful women in their thirties or forties who like well made, stylish but not fashionable clothes go to to buy shoes & bags. They want good leather & a little bit of a heel, (but not enough to scare the horses). They are lawyers, senior management, bankers.

The last time I entered a Cole Haan store was with my mother in New York last November. She always finds several pairs of shoes she likes at the Columbus Circle branch on her annual Manhattan Christmas shopping trips.

I've never been that enthused: my usual MO in the Cole Haan store is to flop on the nearest chair with all the shopping bags, pecking away at my Blackberry whilst she makes some commission-based assistant's day.

Don't get me wrong: I always run a quick eye over the offer - my mama is very generous - just in case anything appeals but nope, never anything. The heels are always too low, the styles just the wrong side of frump chic and, to cap it all, pretty damn expensive for a shoe that doesn't have Alaia or Nick Kirkwood stamped on the sole.

I do like the concept of the super comfy Nike Air technology (Cole Haan is wholly owned by Nike), but never understood why they bothered putting it in a 3" heel: that's a starter shoe as far as I am concerned. My feet don't start to ache until my heels reach 4”.

Then I did a press appointment for Cole Haan last year when I was on the American publication, must have been for SS09, and was blown away. I saw plenty to like and a little to lust after. There were proper high heels, great bags and interesting skins. Sure there was a lot of ahem, influence, from the runways, but the finish was excellent and the designs fashion-y enough not to be immediately recognizable as Cole Haan. (This is absolutely a good thing.)

Browsing through the website today I saw a pair of shoes I think I might actually buy. Granted they are remarkably familiar to a pair I bought in Paris three seasons ago – but they would be my everyday shoes (finally a higher heel shoe from Cole Haan with Nike Air technology) for this season, and I wouldn't expect them to last style-wise beyond this winter.

The Nancy Air Sandal

cole haan nancy air sandal

I am, however, going to draw a veil over the boot offer. ($498 for a faux cropped cowboy boot? Please.) And the website still needs work. A lot of work. No zoom function, no 360 views, only one picture of each shoe, no view all function, and a very slow load.

(I'd be interested to know from my American readers what they think about Maria Sharapova's new line for Cole Haan. There's an interesting pair of black suede flat over the knee boots, that come with Nike Air bounce. Kind of appealing for trekking round fashion week. Believe me, even if you have a car & driver, your feet HURT.)