Lord of the Dance

By Remy Pearce
Women's shoes, first and foremost, are supposed to look good&mdashfor centuries, comfort has been merely an afterthought. "People always ask me if I make fashion shoes or comfortable shoes. It was never believed in this industry that they could be both," says Phil LaDuca of his anomalous dance shoes sold from his sweet-chic shop in Hell's Kitchen.
LaDuca, who spent 30 years dancing professionally (10 of them on Broadway), knows how important it is to be light on your feet. Sure, in the world of theater, there have been advancements in lighting, costumes, and scenery, but LaDuca noticed how shoes never seemed to progress at all. Hence, the designer, who's been called the "Gucci" of dance shoes, seized the chance to turn the tides.
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By smartly integrating elastic into his designs (to afford breathing room and prevent leather distortion) and repositioning the heel to create a better center of gravity, LaDuca crafted what many thought was an impossibility&mdasha high performance shoe that was, yes&mdashhot to trot. "The heel can go as high as you want," beams LaDuca of his ingenious innovation. Operating much like a cobbler of the past, LaDuca allows one to customize her own footwear, and each pair is then handmade in Italy by a fourth-generation factory of skilled artisans.
Initially, LaDuca's business was limited to the dancing and stage worlds where he got his start selling his shoes out of a bag slung over his back. But, when a Radio City Rockette commissioned him to create a special pair for her wedding, he realized the potential for a fashionable design that had all the functionality of his dancing shoes. Word spread quickly, and, over the past few years, his beautifully sculpted shoes have become a favorite of actors and non-actors alike&mdashAntonio Banderas, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, and Anna Sui, are all fans, and nearly every Broadway show is outfitted by the man exclusively.
Perhaps the greatest triumph for this tiny Hell's Kitchen label came by way of the recent award-winning film Chicago as La Duca and his saucy shoes contributed to an Oscar for Best Costume. Yet, aside from the show-biz world, LaDuca's shoes have also gained a fast rep for their streetwise style (think last season's gorgeous Marc Jacobs Mary Jane plus hours upon hours of wince-free wear). In fact, after a spin in a pair of shimmery gold LaDuca's, you might even be tempted to hang up those slim-heeled Louboutin's, at least on those evenings when sitting down just isn't an option.
La Duca Shoes, 534 9th Avenue, 212-268-6751
Hot shoes that won't make you wince? The crossroads of comfort and high-style is just a fox-trot away--in Hell's Kitchen, to be exact.
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