News & Runway

These Shoes Were Made for Walking: Closed Set with Julie Bensman

When I arrive on set of any fashion shoot, I first say hello to the crew and talent, grab a coffee and run over to the stylist's corner to check out the goods: designer labels I only dream to own, jewels so large they come with their own guards (several of which usually shoot me suspicious glances from the corner of the room), and the shoes! Oh, the shoes! Row after rainbowed-row of strappy stilettos and pretty pumps, teetering high above the studio floor and swaying just so in the breeze of any passerby's wake. Some have spikes, some have studs, others with chunky hardware, and still more with delicate details. As varied as the pull often is, the commonality always ends up being this: what practical human being actually wears these things?

Over time, I've come to embrace the "editorial" accessory: works of art better destined for the pages of a magazine or a fanciful event that requires one to be on her feet for no more than five minutes. Items you'd wear for a workday filled with meetings, castings, market appointments and post-work dinners/drinks? Not so much. For such days that require fashion, function, AND performance, one must look no further than Cole Haan.

"New York City is the ultimate testing ground," Cole Haan’s Kristin Whalley told me over a meeting at the newly designed SoHo store (128 Prince St) last week. "People take subways, they’re getting in and out of cabs, hopping over puddles, walking over cobblestone streets. They need a shoe that performs.” In that vein, Cole Haan began incorporating Nike Air technology into its designs in 1988, but in a subtle way that preserved the classic look. In short, its boots are made for walking….and walk New Yorkers do.

Cole Haan’s SoHo store carries exclusive designs customers can’t get anywhere else, including my favorite, a collection of reflective wingtips, penny loafers, and moccasins that give an understated edge to a classic silhouette (right). Available in silver and black, the shoes are covered in microscopic glass beads which reflect light and give the surface depth and texture. Each purchase comes with a colored shoelace of your choice (below), so you can customize your kicks any which way. Whalley says many of her friends have been snatching up the silver wingtips and pairing them with hot pink laces. Tres chic.

shoelace wall at Cole Haan SoHo

Consider this the sweetest stop in Manhattan’s shopping mecca, a must-see for anyone looking for exclusive styles from a brand I’m seeing everywhere – from fashion shoots to city streets.