What does Buenos Aires, a Toronto art director and pair of shoes with a French name all have in common? Not that much I thought, until I purchased a pair of 4-inch high stilettos that proved to be even more powerful at connecting people than Hollywood’s ‘6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon”.
A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to Argentina to work on a TV commercial, and the moment that I mentioned to a colleague that I was going to be in Buenos Aires for the shoot, she insisted I visit her ‘favourite shoe store in the whole world’ that happened to be located there.
Always game for a bargain on shoes, I wrote down the details on how to find these ‘Comme il Faut’ shoes in Buenos Aires, wondering why the French brand seemed vaguely familiar to me. Address in hand, I headed out to do a little shoe shopping, expecting to find a typical retail shoe store. Instead I found myself ushered into a tiny atelier located on the second floor of a pretty courtyard in a tony downtown shopping district. Inside, there was little more than a handful of shoes on display in a tiny glass showcase, so I was understandably confused as to what the fuss was all about, until a staff of well-groomed saleswomen sat me down and measured my feet for size.Rue des Artisans in Buenos Aires where the Comme Il Faut studio is located.
That’s when the fun began.
Box after box of shoes were brought out, each pair a little different, each beautifully crafted and elegantly designed, and as I dismissed one style for whatever reason, another box was presented with a new design, until I found myself surrounded with a ‘short’ list of 5 pairs. It felt like a scene right out of Pretty Woman.
The best part was that thanks to the exchange rate with the Argentinian peso, these shoes were 1/3 the cost of what we would pay in Canada! The math alone suggested I should buy 3 pairs – plus after all the individual attention by a staff of 3 saleswomen, I felt it was the least I could do. (yes, yes, I recognize justification when I write it!)
It was as I was leaving with my shoes that I had a chance to speak with Alicia Muniz, the owner, and I got the story behind the brand: Alicia was a former tango dancer herself, and wanted to design dance shoes that were both structurally supportive and beautiful enough to wear on the street. She asked me where I was from and if I danced (hah!). I told her I had taken some lessons in ballroom dance at a studio in Toronto called Rhythm and Motion, at which point she exclaimed that she sold her shoes in Toronto exclusively through that dance studio! Finally, I connected the dots, and why the name had seemed familiar from the first time I heard it – I had seen what I thought were these ‘French’ shoes offered for sale in the tango studio where my husband and I practiced our amateur version of Dancing with the Stars.
Never in a million years would I have thought I’d find myself a) buying 3 pairs of sky-high tango shoes in b) Buenos Aires, never mind talking to c) the former dancer who designed the shoes herself. The world is a strange place indeed.
I still have all 3 pairs of my sexy stilettos, and I pull them out on the rare occasions when I know I can totter around in relative safety before perching on a seat for the rest of the night. Because having walked a mile in Toronto in my 4-inch high Argentine heels, I have never had a greater respect for two things in life:
1. The Small World Theory
2. Tango dancers.
Those women are superhuman.
TIP: If you are ever in Argentina, and tempted to go to one of the advertised Tango dinner shows, don’t be too quick to dismiss them as tourist traps. We went to La Ventana, in Buenos Aires and while the food may not be the best in the city, the lightning fast footwork of these professional tango dancers will blow your mind. On their feet these 4-inch high tango shoes are not just beautiful – they are potentially lethal.