FALL 2003

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Fabrications start with leather, especially nubuc, suede or vegetable tanned, and expand into denims that are bleached, hand painted, distressed or stenciled. Prints are eclectic with stripes, florals, animal styles and strawberry replacing last year's popular cherry.

In men's footwear, leathers retain a distinctly masculine feel in sandals and other casuals. Standard silhouettes take a twist with oblique or square toe lasts, perforations, and tooled leather.
The bowling shoe trend from a few seasons ago reappears in leather lace-ups and sneakers. And athletic-inspired designs drive the market, playing it safe with naturals, blues and blacks, alone or in two-tone combinations.

In fact, athletic features serve as inspiration in every level of footwear including, and especially, high end designer brands (envision a black and white sneaker ballerina with a princess heel). Comfort is happening, and sporty influences appear on even the most feminine sandal. Styling features in upscale footwear follows the same trends as more moderate brands, but what sets them apart are cleaner lines, more muted colors and the use of a multitude of fabrics and embellishments in one shoe. For example a sleek, slim- profiled mule in tulle stretched over a satin upper, or a striped suede slide with a thick stacked heel and hand set rhinestone trim.

Kids shoes are simple take downs from older sister with all the same trendy features as the larger sizes including cork bottom slides, floral prints, updated flip flops, backless Mary Jane's, trimmed down denim sneakers and lower priced, disposable thongs. While adult shoes have foregone new technology in favor of traditional and retro styling, children's shoe manufacturers are still experimenting with such elements as hinged shoes for easy on/off, non-skid bottoms, new closures and waterproof leathers.

Overall themes for Spring 2003 include a nod to ethnic tribal as evidenced by raw leather edges, fringe, beads, neutral tones and such natural materials as raffia, cork and jute. Footwear is either drawn from athletic roots, or feminized in sleek dress up classical styles. The mule, and anything backless, is the important silhouette in virtually every category from clogs to sneakers to mocs - giving the consumer a chance to break out of closed up footwear without going completely barefoot. And vintage looking 40's platforms combine with French provincial country prints for a relaxed new feel, making this season especially light and casual.

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