x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

£100,000 shoes the latest treat for the well-heeled

UK designer crafts footwear of precious metal and gems.

Despite the Middle East's punishing terrain, a UK jeweller believes the region will be the biggest market for its £100,000 (Dh558,000) gold and diamond stilettos. The fancy stilettos are sculpted from a few hundred grams of the precious metal and studded with more than 2,200 diamonds. Chris Shellis, the owner, designer and jewellery maker at the House of Borgezie, who came up with the idea for the shoes, is banking on the lavish tastes of the region's ladies.

"It's a combination of a number of factors," Mr Shellis said. "It's the glamour and it's obviously the spending power as well." The shoes, called the Eternal Borgezie Diamond Stiletto, are not the most expensive in the world but the company claims they are the first with the sole and heel made from gold. The heel is made from seven gold wires converging in a cone shape to create the stiletto spike.

Mr Shellis launched the shoes two weeks ago, about a decade after he first had the idea. It has taken about four years to design the shoes, which require more than 150 hours of craftsmanship a pair, he said. After receiving an order, the company will send out two staff to meet the buyer and take the customer's measurements. The House of Borgezie can make 100 pairs a year, the designer said. The bespoke shoes, which come with replaceable soles, carry an open-ended guarantee, Mr Shellis said.

The House of Borgezie has received about five orders so far, mainly from the UK and Europe, but expects much interest from the Middle East, said Mr Shellis, who based his expectation on research he conducted in Dubai last year. Mr Shellis had a model wear a pair of the shoes around the Atlantis hotel on the Palm Jumeirah to gauge interest. Groups of women followed the pair around, he said. "They really do attract a lot of attention," he said. "Women tend to spot them."

Mr Shellis said he was aiming either to open a shop in Dubai or to sell his shoes at a boutique in the region as soon as possible, ideally by the end of the year. But the ostentatious shoes are coming to the market during tough economic times, and as luxury shoppers seem to be turning towards austerity. What's more, the price of gold hit a record high of US$1,284 (Dh4,716) last month and is expected to reach $1,400 by the end of the year, potentially swelling the already plump price of the shoes.

Mr Shellis said he did not expect the changing gold price to affect the price significantly, as the shoes contain just a few hundred grams of gold, depending on the wearer's size. And they are aimed at women at the very top end of the luxury scale; consumers who have not been greatly affected by the economic downturn, he said. "It's not mass-market," Mr Shellis said. "There is only so many of these we will sell globally and it will be very, very high echelon."

aligaya@thenational.ae