I’ve had a hanging shoe rack inside my closet door for a long time.
Since last month, the bottom few racks keep collapsing for no clear reason — they’ve done it even when there are no shoes on them. Towards the end of November, the bottom four racks fell down with a big bang, sending shoes everywhere. As I picked them up, I paused to try on a single pair: These gold Spring-O-Lator mules that were given to me by designer Terry de Havilland himself. The next day I read that Terry — known as the “rock ‘n’ roll cobbler” — had died at age 81.
As I wrote at the time, “You can’t love vintage Ossie Clark clothes and not love de Havilland shoes, with their similar sexy, rock-star vibe.” Here are just a few of his credits, from the Guardian’s obituary: “Python boots for Rudolf Nureyev, black leather thigh boots with red satin linings for Jackie Onassis, spangled platforms for David Bowie and Marc Bolan and ankle-strapped ones for Tim Curry’s Dr Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” And let’s not forget the custom pair he made for Kate Moss’s wedding with “fuck me” and “fuck you” spelled out in crystals on the soles of her platforms.
Before I met the de Havillands in person, I “met” Liz on Twitter during my 2012 Topshop ring-ripoff experience. She took a special interest in my story because about a decade earlier, Miu Miu copied one of Terry’s 1973 designs and he fought for credit.
I wanted to spend so much more time with Liz and Terry but I was already very late to meet my friend Al Radley of Ossie Clark fame. (Al died at age 94 this past Valentine’s Day.) I wanted to hear more about the decadent 1970s days of “Champagne, caviar and cocaine”! We did get to talk about a terrible heartbreak: An “investment” in the company that resulted in a couple of business guys who cared not one bit about artful shoes owning the de Havilland brand. This is a very common fashion-world experience that I’ve written about before: The artist loses the brand name, the investors ruin the product, so keep in mind that any newly produced de Havilland shoes that you find in stores or online have nothing to do with Terry.
Before I left the studio, though, I did have a Cinderella moment. My feet were narrow enough to fit these flag shoes.
Liz told me that the flag shoes were originally designed in 1972, but that this particular pair was made for the 2004 opening of London’s Dover Street Market, the retail store created by Rei Kawakubo of the label Comme des Garçons. Of course, I still have them and wear them, but they live on a sturdy closet shelf, not the unreliable shoe rack.
I hesitated at first to tell Liz that Terry had been on my mind practically at the time of his death thanks to the gold mules, which were a follow-up gift sent to me in New York. But she loved hearing it, and why was I even being shy? This man was sent off in a coffin painted Pop-Art style, transported in a leopard-spotted hearse. I’m not making this up! Funeral goals, bitches!
I also want to pay tribute to two other people who died earlier this year, and who I had the pleasure of meeting, however briefly. Robyn Hawk, a jewelry expert and blogger, died of a stroke at the too-young age of 63. I think it’s fair to say that everyone in the industry knew Robyn. I got to meet her in person in 2014, when I asked her to make space for me directly in front of an air conditioner at an industry event! I was like, “Hot flash! Help!” and she not only made way but fanned me enthusiastically. She took this rare photo of my Taxi and Passenger Maneater ring before the cityscape and Brooklyn Bridge were engraved on the sides.
Finally, Herb Sandler died at 87 in June. He and his late wife, Marion Sandler, were committed to giving away their wealth philanthropically and contributed more than $1.3 billion to the Sandler Foundation. The foundation then provided the backing for ProPublica, the nonpartisan investigative journalism organization of which MrB was the founding editor. After the Sandlers requested his initial ideas for nonprofit journalism over a dozen years ago, MrB scribbled them on one of my business envelopes. If only we’d known what it would lead to, we would have framed it!
There are some people you don’t get to spend very much time with, but you remember them forever. These were three of those people for me.