We can still remember the moment: It was summer three years ago, and Olivia Palermo appeared to be utterly devoted to a particular pair of cut-out suede booties. She's been known to play favorites to certain accessories, but this one was different. She wore them everywhere and with everything. There they were on the streets of New York, paired with a little white cotton dress, and then a beat later, in Paris, during Fashion Week, styled with bright green separates.
Under a then-unknown brand out of Milan, designed by a then-unknown shoe designer, these booties put Aquazzura on the map, making its creative director Edgardo Osorio a worthy opponent of more established names—rivals, like say, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, or Manolo Blahnik. Factor in plenty of exposure from OP's heavily photographed globe-trotting fashion exploits or stylist Giovanna Battaglia's (the first person to wear the design), and there was no stopping its rapid ascent to brand-name recognition.
And the fact that the bootie—aptly coined the "Sexy Thing"—also happened to be Osorio's first-ever design for Aquazzura only makes the story of its creation that much more interesting. It all started with comfort, or rather the discomfort of shoes that pained the feet of women around him.
"I was surrounded by women and all I would hear is of them complaining about their shoes," Osorio recalls. "Back then, 'comfort' was a dirty word in fashion footwear. This was before fur loafers or sneakers. So, I wanted to create a shoe that was like slipping your foot into a glove—something beautiful, feminine, and sexy at the same time."
To achieve that, he collaborated with artisans and experts who dedicated their lives studying the human form. A comfortable shoe, he learned, needed a pitch that resulted in a balanced weight distribution across the arch and back, and not just at the ball of the foot. There's additional padding in the insoles for a soft, yet subtle cushion. The silhouette, too, played a role; as a bootie, it adds security and support, holding the foot in with its enveloping shape. And finally, for the kicker, he constructed the Sexy Thing with soft unlined suede that was specially developed for Aquazzura. Softer, thicker, and flawless compared with regular leather, this "buttery" version not only gets more comfortable with every wear, but it molds to the shape of your foot over time (much like a pair of your favorite worn-in jeans).
"It's so soft, it's like second skin," Osorio says. "I have had people call it the '12-hour' shoe, because you can wear it for 12 hours straight. And for a pretty high heel, at 4.5 inches, to achieve that level of comfort is something that's unheard of."
Design-wise, it only took an afternoon. He sketched it by the pool in the Duoro Valley of Portugal, toying with the idea of an open-toe bootie. And then he added the skin-revealing cut-outs "for a sexier" effect. (When we asked why he named it the Sexy Thing, he simply states: "Because it's so sexy." Obviously.) The result was a versatile sandal-bootie hybrid that, he says, could be worn nearly year-round and with nearly every outfit. He name-drops Gigi Hadid who slipped it on with a white Tom Ford gown during the amfAR Gala at Cannes last year and Kendall Jenner, who has worn the style with something as casual as ripped jeans and a tee.
In the five years since its inception, the Sexy Thing has converted many a celebrity into fans. But the moment when Osorio realized he had created a classic? "A month after the shoe hit stores, there was a wait list for a year," he marvels. "In the first couple of years, they were always sold out." And even though Osorio has created other hits since then, like the sexy lace-up Belgravia pumps or the playful tasseled, fringed Wild Thing, it's the Sexy Thing that he maintains is a classic for Aquazzura: "It's been five years and it's still our best-seller."