Sunday, March 4, 2012

Melissa in Wonderland

This is the story of how Jean and Valerie bought new shoes at Galeria Melissa.

We had both, at various times, seen this ad in the subway and made mental notes that we had to visit, especially having seen Zaha Hadid's shoes for Melissa in the newspaper. Below is a stock photo of the assymmetrical shoes by the prolific Iraqi architect and designer. (Stay tuned for more about her in future postings.) Who could resist?! Proof positive that it's possible to make a sexy shoe with low heels. (They're now no longer in production, alas.) So when we compared mental notes, hands down (and feet down too), we were off to Galeria Melissa.

Before you even get to the shoes, you're hit at the door by this wall of sequins. When the opening door moves the air, the sequins flutter like little butterflies. This, and many of the other eye-popping visuals in the store, are the work of Assume Vivid Astro Focus, which first made a big splash at the 2004 Whitney Biennial.

In a small dark alcove in the middle of the store is an interactive screen, so you can look at the entire selection, and the available colors. All the shoes are made of plastic, which their brochure claims is both recyclable and hypoallergenic, and all the shoes give off a candy-like scent. Have you ever walked into a Crocs store? The acrid plastic smell emitted by so many pairs in one place almost knocks you down. There is none of that at Melissa.

The store is a riot of color, with constantly changing wall projections adding to the fun. (If you look at our photographs, you can see different designs on the back wall.)

Melissa collaborates with fashion designers as well as architects and interior designers. This is a Vivienne Westwood shoe for children, but we would have loved to see it in an adult size.

Way in the back of the store, at the foot of a spiral staircase, is this well, in the center of which were three Disney collaborations. One of the flat slip-ons featured Cruella de Vil from One Hundred and One Dalmatians; a second had one of the evil stepsisters from Cinderella; and the third Melificence, the Evil Queen from Snow White. Tooooo pointy for us, but great graphics. Jean confesses here in print that the wonderfully bifurcated villainess of black and white, Cruella de Vil, is one of her all-time favorite cartoon characters.

Jean ascends the staircase. The red wall is great; the hidden door handles are great (see the indents behind Jean, above?), and the little black alcove, barely visible (below), is also great.

How do you get your customer's attention? Melissa's folks know the drill cold. When we indicated our interests, they asked our shoe sizes, and before we could even think, they presented all the variations of those shoes, laid out like yummy open boxes on Christmas morning.

Melissa has collaborated with Goth British fashion designer Gareth Pugh on a gladiator-style sandal, called Aileron (designed with the moving parts of a plane in mind!), that comes in multiple combinations. In a November 2011 British Vogue interview about his 2012 Spring collection with Melissa, he described the shoes as "armor for the feet". There is an all black model, an all white model, a white shoe with a black central panel, a black shoe with a white central panel, a white shoe with a silver panel and a black shoe with a silver panel.

While we were considering all our options, the fabulous staff brought out some fabulous Brazilian espresso. If we had harbored any doubts at all before, the espresso sealed the deal (it should be called Stealth Espresso), and we wanted to take home the entire experience with us (best carried in a shoe box, natch). One of the staff kindly offered to take photos of us. We're not sure if she took them at angles to underscore the edginess of the store, or to make sure the photos took in as much of the store as possible. Or maybe she thought Idiosyncratic Fashionistas needed idiosyncratic photos. Our photos are generally more conventional, so these make a nice change.

Part of the fun is in looking at the other guests. We would have loved to photograph this woman head-on, but were unprepared, and this photo from the back had to suffice. Check out all the stripes in her clothes.

This is the model Valerie finally decided on.

Even the shoe box is fun.

This was Jean's choice, called Enjoying II. Even though it came in all black, Jean surprised herself by picking the buff silver version -- which will go with 99% of her wardrobe.

The store was such a visual treat right from the moment we walked in that it was clear we would have to blog about it, regardless of whether we bought anything. (With our feet being so problematic, we have to turn down even the most appealing shoes if we sense trouble ahead.) So we mentioned to the very attentive sales staff early on that we do a blog and have a book, and gave everyone our card, so they could find the blog and see what we wrote when the time came. (Three LOVELY people wound up waiting on us, and we are kicking ourselves - with our new shoes - that we failed to take down everyone's names.)

Well, at the very end we had a conversation with Sami (the manager?), who asked us what size shoes we wound up buying. (Why would she want to know that, we wondered.) When we told her, she presented us each with a pair of the FABULOUS sandals above in our size. They were the sandals given to those who'd been lucky enough to attend Melissa's opening night festivities last month.

We couldn't have had a better day, and it will be a long time before we have a better shopping experience!

Jean is wearing a vintage She Bible wide-legged jumpsuit, vintage Betsey Johnson red and black skull sweater, Ignatius hat, High Use coat, Trippen boots.

Valerie is wearing a Nafi de Luca hat, Tiiti Tolonen coat, wood pin on felt base from the Philadelphia Craft Show, vintage green suede gauntlets with mustard insets, reversible painted sheepskin vest by Mina Poe, shirt by Suitsme, pants by Comme des Garcons, and unlabeled shoes.

Bonus photo:

Melissa shoes designed by Gaetano Pesce. The idea was that each wearer could cut the shoe to suit individual tastes. How cool is that?! (Note that these are not from the current season, so we assume they're not available.)


  1. Great post! the store looks amazing. Please follow up in the future about how comfortable the shoes are, including the sandals- I love their 80's retro look.

  2. I NEED that black hat she is wearing. I NEEEEED it.

  3. I even made a feeble attempt at knitting my own rendition of it, but it doesnt have the same baller effect.