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Gray Matters, the New Shoe Brand With a Fresh Take on the Block Heel Trend

Buy them before everyone else does.

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Sandals in muted colors
Mildred Belt, $475
Photo: Gray Matters

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Seemingly out of nowhere, Italian-born, Brooklyn-based designer Silvia Avanzi’s shoe collection Gray Matters is everywhere. Her shoes are on the feet of the low-key super-chic Dakota Johnson as well as the not low-key but also super-chic Leandra Medine. They’re all over the posts of my favorite 20-year-old style Instagrammer and stocked in many taste-making boutiques, including in a recent trunk show on Moda Operandi.

Personally, I find it far more exciting when a heretofore unknown brand surfaces with a must-have shoe than when, say, a name like Gucci does. One good reason: Lusting over the creation of a newer brand will often be around $200 less than a big name brand’s shoe.

Of course, at the just-under-$500-mark, Avanzi’s Italian-made sculptures for the feet aren’t exactly cheap — which is why I’m bringing them to your attention now, in early March, while you still have at least a few weeks to save before foot-exposing shoes are the norm rather than the exception.

The shoes themselves are architectural works of art: minimalist, almost androgynous creations with blocky, walkable heels. The look capitalizes on the fact that, in 2017, your quirkily dressed elementary school art teacher would be considered very chic. They’re casual, which I’m counting as a good thing (splurge-y stilettos are fun, but what’s more fun is bringing down the cost-per-wear of something by wearing the crap out of it).

They’re also different-looking, perfect for boosting would-be boring outfits, and, if you want them to be, they’re colorful. But best of all, they’re comfortable. “I met with a lot of factories in Italy before choosing one,” Avanzi says, “The one I chose has tremendous experience in merging fashion and comfort. Gray Matters’ factory is managed by three generations of shoemakers; besides promising brands like ours, they have been crafting shoes for Bottega Veneta and Chanel for years.”

The mid-height heel is the trademark of the line. Of her two most popular styles, one has a 1.6-inch heel and the other a 2.3-inch heel. “I wanted to make mid-heel shoes look cool, chic, and contemporary at a premium affordable price. I was fascinated by the trend of ankle boots by Isabel Marant, Rag & Bone, and Acne, and realized that their classy urban look could translate into pumps and sandals as well,” Avanzi explains of her brand’s beginnings.

Though the brand is still in its infancy (it’s under one year old), the Mildred Classic is aptly named, and fast becoming a classic. I’m a fan of the dusty rose ($475); the black pair, however, with the red heel is single-handedly making red-bottomed shoes covetable again. The Mildred Classic fits into the the glove shoe trend, which is having a moment (see: Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Martiniano, Mansur Gavriel, and countless budget iterations), so it will be particularly interesting to see how Avanzi adapts her line to stay ‘cool’ but classic as it grows up.

Yellow heels with circular heels
Mildred Egg, $525
Pink and grey shoes with sling back
Mildred Buckle, available mid-April
Sandals by Gray Matters
Rina Sandalo, available mid-April

Also available now are two iterations of a boot called the Monika, one with a diamond-shaped heel ($585) that harkens back to geometry class, and another with a cylinder-shaped heel ($575) — three out of this shoe’s four colorways are currently sold out on the brand’s website, a testament to their exploding popularity.

And what’s to come this summer and next fall only gets more playful: The Mildred is reimagined in new colors and with an egg-shaped heel; multi-colored sandals are introduced in a few different shapes; and next fall, look out for origami-inspired pumps and flats as well as boots with tiny suede stars.

For now, you can shop the line at Gray Matters’ own website, or at online stores including Need Supply Co., Totokaelo, and The Dreslyn. You can shop Fall/Winter ‘17 pre-sale for a limited time at Moda Operandi.