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Franco Sarto, the purveyor of shoes that marry style, comfort and an amazing price point (well, maybe that's a three-way), stopped by Nordstrom Fashion Valley this weekend as part of a Vogue-sponsored meet-and-greet with his adoring (read: working women for whom a Loub or Choo would be out of the question, if only on principle) fans, many of whom kept exclaiming, "Your shoes are so comfortable!" and to unveil his latest spring collection of wedges, stacked heels and flat sandals.
He also autographed shoe sketches, posed for photos and reaffirmed the reason why, in Europe, many hot young women date short older Italian gentlemen such as Sarto: the charm-your-pants-off accent and unwavering eye contact. Racked correspondent Christianna Ablahad talked (through a translator) to Sarto about the sexiness of a woman's foot, Lady Gaga's shoe preference and the wide discrepancy between price points in today's shoe market.
Racked: What's the difference between this collection and previous ones?
Sarto: I wanted to use more casual materials in this collection and use the platform, since previous collections were a little more elegant. Not overly casual, but more suitable for casual dressing.
Racked: What's the sexiest thing about a woman's foot?
Sarto: High heels are very sexy. It develops a woman, it raises her. Everything goes up and out! (Gestures towards the chest and behind) From the back, you can see the woman's shape perfectly when she walks.
Racked: How does your technical background as a cobbler help when you're designing a shoe?
Sarto: I started in a shoe factory when I was young, and fashion wasn't as important then as it is now. It was important, but not like today. Today, everybody loves fashion. I started learning how to work with shoes, to make them, and then started considering fashion more and more in the actual design.
Racked: What do you think the difference is between Italian and American style?
Sarto: There's very little difference nowadays. Currently, the world is so global and so unified that in Germany, San Francisco, Milan, New York, Paris, we see the same kinds of trends. We all like the same thing, especially those from the same generation. There's the little difference between generations, but for the most part, there's very little, if any, difference.
Racked: Your shoes are very affordable, yet are still high quality. Why do you think that's important?
Sarto: One has to have experience. I started with comfort in mind. With experience and exploring the different fabrics/materials, I was able to put together a good price.
Racked: What do you think about designers like Christian Louboutin or Jimmy Choo who charge upwards of $600 or $700 per pair of shoes?
Sarto: I admire them. Each one of us has a different principle. They have their own style, their own ideas. I cannot answer for another person.
Racked: If you could design anything else other than shoes, what would it be?
Sarto: (Laughs) No one's ever asked that question before. Since I was very young, I knew that women loved shoes, and all women need to wear shoes. Everyone around me was working on shoes, so I started working on shoes at 14, that's what I know how to do and that's what I love to do. Nothing else.
Racked: You have a shoe from a past collection called the "Twitter." Are you on Twitter or Facebook?
Sarto: Not on Twitter yet, but on Facebook. I have a lot of visitors every month on my Facebook. About 10,500.
Racked: Do you interact directly with your Facebook fans?
Sarto: It's impossible to interact with 10K fans, plus I don't speak English. How can I design shoes and be on Facebook at the same time? I either design shoes or be on Facebook!
Racked: What do you think about Lady Gaga's shoe style?
Sarto: I obviously admire her, since she's a vanguard who brings new fashion, new style to the forefront. I cannot admire all of the shoes she wears, but I like the idea that she's innovative and brings new trends to the market.
Racked: How do you feel about teaming up with Vogue on this event?
Sarto: Of course, who wouldn't like to be in the pages of Vogue? It's a fantastic honor, but I just want to make every woman happy. When I design, I design for the 18-year-old and her 50-year-old mother, for all women.
· Franco Sarto [Official Site]
· All San Diego coverage [Racked]