Arts Well shod 

SA native Nicole Brundage designs shoes in Italy

When I first met shoe designer Nicole Brundage, my feet were hurting so badly I was standing in my stockings, high heels in one hand, a martini in the other. "If you were wearing my shoes," Nicole said, "you wouldn't have to do that."

I knew immediately who she was, if only by her reputation: a young, beautiful blonde from San Antonio who recently launched her own designs for some of the most luxurious shoes created in recent years.

The 27-year-old neophyte designer got her start working with Zac Posen, who put her in charge of designing the shoes for his collection - designs that ultimately Manolo Blahnik would produce. That experience convinced Brundage to start her design career with shoes.

"I came to Italy to take a quick course on technical shoe design," says Brundage, and she never left. "Before I finished the course, I wandered the fine-shoe-making capitals of Italy, Vigevano and Parabiago, and found a factory where I could begin my first collection and learn the ins and outs." After a year of designing, Brundage presented two collections and is currently working on another for fall and winter 2007.

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A collection of Nicole Brundage footwear on display at LeeLee Loves Shoes. (Photo by Julie Barnett)

"I like a shoe that has personality or that says something about the woman's mood. The type of shoe you spot from far away," says Brundage, "the kind of shoe that is confident and very sexy but not in a vulgar way, in a playful way."

A woman would not buy a pair of Nicole Brundage shoes if she did not want to be noticed: a black-patent, red-soled, knee-high, high-heeled boot and a turquoise, diamond-toe, high-heeled pump are typical. These shoes are playful and sexy in an intellectually sophisticated way.

Says Nicole, "I hope that if someone buys my shoes, it is because she likes what she likes and delights in it, and because she naturally wants a bit of attention ... both from women with just as good of taste as she, and from men who appreciate women with good taste."

Each season, Nicole produces roughly 15 different models, combining heel and toe shapes, heel heights, materials, colors and other elements to create her designs. Occasionally she'll create more than one version of a model, but always ensuring that her designs are anything but ordinary. She grouses, "I hate the kind of shoe that you see on everyone's feet. It becomes nauseating and a bore to the eye. I find it interesting how it doesn't bother anyone that they are wearing the same shoe as everyone else!"

Although Brundage does not share my profound distaste for white shoes - she actually likes them! - she does confess to a few pet peeves, in particular shoes that visually double the size of a woman's foot. "I don't like exaggeratedly pointy Italian shoes, which are witchy in a Wicked-Witch-of-the-West way, nor do I like camperos, which look like boats on a woman's feet."

Currently, Brundage's shoes are distributed in only four stores in the U.S. and in a handful of shops in Italy. In San Antonio, the only place to purchase a pair of Nicole Brundages is at LeeLee, a year-old shoe boutique that recently relocated to a shopping strip on Broadway, the first store in the U.S. to carry Brundage's line.

Store co-owner Leigh Landreth says the appeal of carrying the new designer was three-fold: Brundage is a San Antonio girl, she's an unknown designer, and her creations are eye-catching. Says Leigh's partner, Sherry Leeper, "Nicole's designs are incredibly original, with unusual toe shapes and interesting details. She has a fresh take on shoes."

While Brundage's take on shoes may be fresh, her devotion to footwear is nothing new to many women - she admits to not owning enough pairs. "Now that I make shoes," says Brundage, "it has reached a level of absurdity. But, I can keep accumulating and for me it is a pleasure I can't explain."

By Beverly Ingle

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