Getting us off the grid, one pink shearling heel at a time

“The underlying message is to let people be as they are, to not give a fuck and just be. I’m not interested in “It” girls that don’t resonate with me, just because they have 10 million followers. I’m inspired by my friends and the girls on the street,” notes Amélie Pichard, the Parisian footwear darling who emanates girl-next-door charm with insouciance. In an industry where young designers are forced to play “survival of the most followed,” Amélie maintains a refreshing indifference to the digital rat race. Rather than obsessing over cracking the influencer marketing code, she muses on “how to keep authenticity and integrity as a young designer in 2017, while still being cool?” Despite her kitschy creations being the apple of the millennial eye, Amelie Pichard isn’t here to sell shoes, she wants to tell stories.

Walking into her new boutique, tucked away in a quintessentially Parisian alleyway, is an invitation into the designer’s imaginative aesthetic. Her signature shearling heels dangle in the window, a pink satin bed welcomes you in the back, with matching slippers embroidered Chez Pichard as 20€ souvenirs. You are more than simply chez Amelie Pichard at 34 rue de Lappe, here, you’re a character in Amélie’s curated wonderland. But just as there is a dichotomy between the sunshine-y IG approved version of ourselves and the reality behind the screen, there’s a duality to Amélie’s playfulness.

“Everything I do seems lighthearted, but there’s always something to say behind the frivolity,” she notes with a commanding certitude despite the plastic watermelons swinging on her ears. Her latest campaign showcases her whimsical creations – an imitation crocodile clutch and pink shearling heels – with the headlines “Imitiation Bourgeoisie” and “I like them hairy,” alongside cheeky copy. They’re modern takes on vintage ads, laden with text, wit and sass, far from the swipable era we live in where abbreviated memes and emojis are prioritized to traditional storytelling. These campaigns translate her desire for “imperfection” in a generation that filters itself to perfection.”

Her rebellious ethos comes as no surprise from a girl who “never loved fashion, but was fascinated by women.” It wasn’t the glamour of the fashion capital that seduced her into the trade, but rather an unexpected adventure looking for a cobbler while interning with Parisian fashion designer. “It was like a treasure hunt, in this dark, decrepit, dusty cavern, and I see this crude man with black oiled hands making the most refined shoes. That’s when I realized what I wanted to do.” Her magnetism to the unromantic, brutish process is analogous to the masculine energy she channels in her work. “I loved how shoemaking is a traditionally masculine savoir faire, but the final product is oh so feminine and delicate.” At first glance Amélie is 100% femme, with her cherry red lips, pinup sweaters and 70s flares, but she sees herself as “virile with an e,” i.e. the French feminized form of machismo.

Amélie loves clichés and contrasts, as exemplified through her distinctly Retro-Hollywood-meetsParisienne aesthetic. She’s self-admittedly “the most American of French girls,” having even entitled her inaugural collection American Girl. Her boutique echoes this duality from the minimal façade paying homage to old-school Parisian Bar-Tabacs, to the lush California Dreamin’ interior. All the clichés she dreamed of as a little girl came true on her first trip to Los Angeles, where she met her lifetime muse, Pamela Anderson. “Pamela has always been the ideal woman for me. She’s a mother, a businesswoman, an activist and an icon. She’s the ultimate pinup and yet a diehard environmentalist.” In 2016, Amélie collaborated with Pamela on a capsule with three simple objectives, “to do a vegan collection, that was sexy, and ultimately sold at Colette – and those three words changed my life.” The fruits of their labor came in the form of 90’s inspired denim patchwork boots and raffia mules all with sparkling glitter soles – the antithesis of your run-of-the-mill vegan shoe. “It’s not like in New York with all the hot vegan girls running around in leggings, in Paris, eco brands aren’t hip. We wanted to show that to care about the planet, be engaged and be ethically-minded can be cool.”

But don’t think her subversive attempt to make sustainable design sexy came easy, the 2-time collaboration was questioned, ignored by the French press and a challenging concept for them to grasp. “I always wanted my brand to be like that, to be ethical and made in France. But there wasn’t a single French factory that wanted to produce my line, they didn’t get it. They don’t make an effort, they’re followers, they aren’t modern, there’s no vision. It took time.” And with time comes recognition, and the brand that once upon a time was made exclusively by the designer herself and one assistant, has now grown to a full blown enterprise. Many designers become elusive personalities as their spotlight grows, but Amélie insists on keeping it personal. Her boutique is set “in the heart of Pichard,” with the designer’s atelier around the corner and her apartment down the street. “I didn’t want my shop to feel like a shoe store. I hate shopping. I want girls to come through the store, chill with the staff, hang out if I pop in and feel like their chez elles.” She’s like millennial soup for the soul, “life is so serious these days, I’m just trying to keep it cool, fresh and sexy.” Her latest film, Recluse, embodies this to a t. The buxom protagonist is in her country house, going off the grid, romping around nude in Amélie’s shoes. It’s a subtle jab at the industry’s censorship codes, asserting “why should a footwear designer be forced to clothe her model when in the end I’m only selling shoes?”

Amélie’s laissez-faire playfulness is a refreshing contrast in an industry abounding with egos, exclusivity, and homogeny. She’s a dreamer, but she’s also a realist and with her cheeky designs she’s reminding us of what really matters in the sexiest way she can. As referenced in the Oprah Winfrey quote in her latest campaign, “{Amelie} still has her feet on the ground, she just wears better shoes.”

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