As I wrote in my last column, I’m working hard to stay on my diet. But my willpower weakened after I saw Donald J Pliner’s ice cream shoes in the window of his store in Aventura Mall. On March 13, the Star Island resident hosted a meet-and-greet with fans at the boutique to celebrate 20 years in the footwear business. He signed shoes while shoppers sipped strawberry cocktails. Proceeds from that day’s sales benefited Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Options.
“Aren’t those great?” Pliner asked of his ice cream shoes while standing outside his store. “It was a collaboration with Rhonda Voo, an artist I met in the ’70s. She was doing really creative things, like putting spaghetti on one shoe and a meatball on the other. We did hot dogs and banana splits at one point. We decided to collaborate again on this. For $300 plus the cost of the shoe, we can put ice cream on any shoe you want.”
During the next few weeks, the windows of Pliner’s Aventura Mall location will remain sprinkled with shoe designs from throughout the footwear fanatic’s career. The display includes sketches from as far back as 1989, along with sandals covered in a Romero Britto pattern, leopard mules, teal loafers and white leather construction boots. Pliner says it’s impossible for him to choose a favorite shoe.
“I am known for my animal prints and Western designs,” he says, “and I’m in the comfort business.”
The designer’s motto is, “When your feet are comfortable, so is your body, mind and soul.” And his shoes are comfortable. I own three pairs, and they’re among the only shoes in my closet that don’t leave me wanting to crawl down Lincoln Road after a night of partying. Pliner’s designs are made to accommodate a broader range of sizes than most shoe lines. His women’s shoes are available in sizes 4 to 12 in narrow and medium widths. His men’s shoes come in sizes 7 to 17 in medium and wide widths.
Fans of his designs include Justin Timberlake, Carmen Electra, Beyoncé Knowles and Mark Wahlberg. But Shaquille O’Neal may be his biggest fan. The 7-foot-1 basketball star, who used to live next door to Pliner on Star Island, owns hundreds of custom shoes by Pliner in size 22 EEE.
Pliner’s wife, Lisa, recently launched her own shoe collection, Lisa for Donald J Pliner. Her shoes feature green soles and are available in a variety of styles, including gladiator sandals and platform stilettos. Anti-slip traction on the soles makes these shoes different from any other.
“I am sure I am not the first to experience the frustration and humiliation of slipping and sliding around in my favorite stilettos,” Lisa says in a press release. “I found it necessary to incorporate an invisible traction platform that gives the preferred height women want along with providing support, making it the ideal fashionable yet functional anti-slip shoe for the on-the-go woman.”
As someone who frequently slips in public, usually upon entering a crowded party, I may have to check out these shoes.
While Pliner has been lauded for his soft leather handbags, clothing and collection of canine jackets, collars and leashes inspired by his pooch, BabyDoll Pliner, the designer is also known for his charitable work. In September 2007, Pliner created the Peace for the Children Foundation. The Pliners were inspired to start a foundation after a trip to Kazakhstan, where they adopted a little girl they named Starr. Peace for the Children has since built a playground in Houston and another at the Miami Children’s Museum.
As Pliner sits on a planter outside his store, his wrist, which is covered in silver bracelets, some with peace signs, jingles as he autographs a pair of $225 loafers for a man. He hands the shoes to a shop clerk and points to the beaded loafers on his own feet. “You see these shoes?” Pliner asks. The loafers are adorned with hand-sewn glass beads. They were inspired by the design on the African rugs in his Aventura store.
“Men you’d never think would ever wear these beaded shoes are,” Pliner says. “A couple months ago, we were with President Obama and I was wearing my black-and-white beaded shoes and Obama looked down at my feet and said, ‘Do you think I’m cool enough to wear these?’ ”
Of course he is.
FASHION IN COMMOTION
On March 10, the Design District was a mob scene during Gen Art’s Fresh Faces in Fashion show. Hundreds of daringly dressed fashionistas lined up at 140 N.E. 39th St. to get into the event, which featured the runway collections of six clothing designers and three accessory designers in the lounge area of the 30,000-square-foot permanent tent.
Often, I find the outfits people wear to Miami fashion shows to be more interesting than what’s actually shown on the runways. In the lounge area before the show, guests sipped free coconut water from Vita Coco and tried on new eye shadows at Maybelline’s backstage beauty booth. One man sported leggings, a sapphire-sequined top and black studded cowboy boots, a woman in a hot-pink poodle skirt and another man wearing red hi-top sneakers, black satin pants and a blue shirt with a black bow tie.
Showgoer Omar Alexander Figueroa donned the most-outrageous ensemble of the night. He toted a Sour Patch Kids handbag and wore paint-splattered leggings, a leopard shirt, silk Chanel jacket and Star Trek-like sunglasses with spikes on the lenses. Not surprisingly, Figueroa is a stylist.The real fashion show began after 9:30 p.m., and featured collections by New York lines Duskin, Lialia, and Whitney Eve by Whitney Port in addition to clothing by Miami’s Romina Heighes, Gulf Breeze’s Smith Sinrod’s By Smith and California’s Fernanda Carneiro. The standout looks for the night were Heighes’ magenta satin jacket and shorts paired with a navy blouse, and Port’s gold ruffled top and cream-colored wide-leg trousers.
The pieces that packed the most punch weren’t on the runway but were hanging from the ceiling of the tent. The brass-knuckle chandeliers, created by Mark Diaz of Maddesign Group, were originally assembled for the Scope Art Fair during Art Basel Miami Beach. “The product line is called Bully, and the goal was to take hand-to-hand combat weapons and give them a new purpose in the future — a way to turn something dark into a source of light.”Diaz hopes to inspire gang members to fork over their weapons to be turned into lighting fixtures. Each chandelier uses about 70 pairs of brass knuckles.
“Eventually, I’d like to collect blood-spattered brass knuckles to make a fixture that would inspire political figures to support the cause,” Diaz says. “And then, I’d donate proceeds to domestic-violence awareness.”
Contact Joanie Cox at email@example.com.