They’re bedecked with taillights, flames and look like a car — and the most expensive version costs $1,450. So why are New York women clamoring to buy them?
- Last Updated: 12:06 PM, April 12, 2012
- Posted: 11:34 PM, April 11, 2012
It's 5 o’clock on Easter Sunday at Broadway’s Prada store, and a leggy 30-something blonde is desperately trying to squeeze her foot into a too-small patent-leather wedge. With flames rocketing out of the back and little red taillights behind the 4-inch heel, the shoe is ridiculous — and beautiful.
But just like Cinderella’s elusive glass slipper, it doesn’t fit. The saleswoman says only two sizes are left — a 6½ and a 7.
“I’m bigger than that. Will you make more?” the blonde pleads.
“I doubt it, no,” the saleswoman says apologetically, adding: “Anything you see from the runway with the taillights or the flames sold out within a day.”
The blonde looks downcast at her feet. “I’m seriously thinking about cutting off a couple of toes.”
Many New York fashionistas would agree with that sentiment. The shoe, dubbed the “Hot Rod” in Prada’s spring/summer “Women and Cars” collection, is a sweet little number that’s causing grown-up women to swoon.
Pairs come in shiny patent-leather and candy-color combos like cherry and bubble-gum pink, buttercup and sky blue, pastel pink and mint, or forest green and black. Styles range from $890 for slingbacks to $1,450 for the souped-up model with flames and bright red taillights under the heel. (Sorry, they don’t light up. )
And they’re the hottest — and hardest to get — shoe of the season. Not since the Fendi baguette mini-purse launched in 1997 has there been so much bloodlust over an accessory.
And that mania has driven women to desperation. One New York stylist, who asked not to be named, stalked the Prada store on Broadway before Fashion Week in February, and was told the shoes weren’t in yet. When she begged for a certain pair, a saleswoman took pity on her and escorted her to a dressing room where she secretly showed her the style. It was love at first sight.
“She let me preorder them, and now I’m the proud owner of the Hot Rod,” squeals the stylist. “Taking them home was like taking home my first-born child.”
But now it’s April, and time is running out. While celebs such as Katy Perry and Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas have been spotted wearing the Hot Rod, the New York stock — which hit the sales floors of Barneys, Bergdorf, Saks and four Prada stores in late March — is almost gone. Prada won’t comment on how many pairs were made, but the number is finite, and there is no waiting list.
“The second these shoes walked down the runway in September, everyone knew they would be an item,” says Regina Smith Popp, senior fashion editor at Footwear News. At Barneys, a salesman says the minute the shoes appeared in magazines, the store was “bombarded” with girls seeking them.
At Saks, a salesman on the shoe floor says the Hot Rod was “absolutely” the biggest seller of the season. “The girls just swarm them,” he says. “But it’s a runway shoe, and we only have so many sizes.”
Department stores received just two pairs in every size, except for the largest sizes — 9 and up — for which only one was doled out.
Mexican stylist and blogger Gina Ortega, 26, managed to snag a pair in New York when she was here for Fashion Week.
“One of my priorities during the trip was to look for a model or two!” says Ortega, who writes the shoe blog High on Fashion. “I went to the Fifth Avenue Prada store. They only had one pair of the ‘flame’ heels, meant to be used for the mannequin. I think the saleslady saw my need for them, and they were my size! I feel lucky to own one of these jewels.”
That exclusivity is part of what drives women mad. But it’s also the sheer fun of the shoe.
“There’s this great novelty to them,” says Eric Nicholson, fashion director of xoJane.com, who wrote about the shoe in February under the headline “Possibly the Best Shoe Prada Has Ever Made.”
“They’re bright colors. They look like toys,” he says. “Even though they’re ’50s- and car-inspired, there’s some kind of surrealism about them as well.” As for the car theme, “I’ve always said that well-built luxury shoes are like cars,” adds Meghan Cleary, shoe expert and author of “Shoe Are You?” “I don’t think it’s really that different than a guy who collects Maseratis.”
But today’s hot little number is next season’s lemon. The distinctiveness of this shoe means it will date fast, so won’t this Hot Rod sputter out pretty quickly?
Yes, says Stellene Volandes, style director at Town & Country, but then they’ll roar back again in a few years. Expect a fashionable return “in the summer of 2015 or 2017,” Volandes says. “They are the shoe of the moment, but then they evolve into something else.”
But don’t forget to enjoy them now, fashionistas warn. “It takes a certain degree of fun to wear these shoes,” says Volandes. “Ultimately, that’s what dressing up should be. It’s like, ‘Hey, I’ve got flames on my feet.’ ”