By Nancy Newman/ Mail Online
To the untutored eye, they might look more Ena Sharples than haute couture. But despite their dubious connotations, the fur-lined loafer-cum-slipper is the fashion must-have of the autumn. And if the wearers feel a bounce in their step, that’s because they are made, controversially, with a kangaroo fur lining – which has been condemned by animal welfare groups.
The furry footwear was first sighted at the Gucci Spring/Summer 2016 runway show and immediately became an essential fashion accessory for celebrities undeterred by the debate they have sparked. Sienna Miller has been seen around town in hers – and Alexa Chung sported a pair during Milan fashion week.
Shades of Grey actress Dakota Johnson wears them out to events, as does model Kendall Jenner. The cognoscenti – keen not to be classed as slipper-wearers – have even given the style its own name: the sliced loaf.
And they’re not just for female fashionistas. Screen heart-throb Tom Hiddleston wore a specially branded pair of Gucci’s £650 Princetown loafers in his latest campaign for the brand.
Now the high street chains are attempting to cash in on the concept, with stores such as Zara creating more affordable imitations that carry a £45.99 price tag.
The furry footwear was first sighted at the Gucci Spring/Summer 2016 runway show
“We’ve seen a phenomenal response to the backless loafer,” says Net-a-Porter’s retail fashion director, Lisa Aiken. ‘They’re the new off-duty shoe of choice.’ t is the Gucci slippers that have attracted the opprobrium of the animal rights campaigners.
They are furious that the fur lining is made from the skin of Australian wild kangaroos, whose hide is prized for its combination of softness and strength.
Dr Daniel Ramp, of the Centre for Compassionate Conservation at the University of Technology, Sydney, denounced the shoes, saying: “Using kangaroo fur to produce fashion footwear is exploitation, especially since populations are in decline. The killing of these animals is inhumane, there is collateral damage and kangaroo culling has a large social cost on the remaining families and their young. Kangaroos are not objects – they are highly intelligent social animals”.
A Gucci spokesman claimed that the fur was an ‘environmentally friendly’ choice, saying: “Kangaroo harvest is one of the best examples of a well-managed harvest programme, and thus can be classified under our guidelines as a sustainable fur.”
Charlotte Griffiths: The real crime is how daft they look
As a Girl About Town, I am always keeping an eye on the latest trends and I first spotted the furry Gucci loafers months ago at celebrity hotspot the Chiltern Firehouse, where Hollywood stars hang out when they are in London.
But recently I have noticed them popping up everywhere, with some people in the capital even wearing them on the Tube.
Indeed, they’re so popular that they are becoming increasingly hard to find in shops. However, using my impeccable connections, I made sure I got my hands on one of the last (copycat) pairs going, and went for a trot around London in them.
I first took them to a celebrity-filled gallery party where one or two people asked me: ‘Are those the Gucci Princetowns?’
I had to admit I was sporting the fake version – which come minus the telltale metal ‘snaffle’ across the front and luxurious tufts of kangaroo fur, so they didn’t quite cut the mustard in that kind of company. Their next outing was at a friend’s dinner party in trendy East London, where I was sure my footwear would go down a treat.
But my friends looked aghast, asking why I had turned up wearing bedroom slippers. My black leather backless shoes were ‘the new cool thing’, I replied.
Cue howls of laughter.
Tom Hiddleston wore a specially branded pair of Gucci’s £650 Princetown loafers in his latest
Ditching my so-called friends, I went for a walk around the famous Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where everyone really is well-heeled.
Near Kensington Palace, I earned a couple of compliments at a French cafe which is so smart that even its waiters are famous (the Beckhams’ son Brooklyn has a Saturday job there).
But as I left, a local builder clocked my footwear – and he too had a good chuckle at my expense. So I gave up.
Though at times I felt rather foolish wearing these slipper-like loafers outdoors, I have to say that my feet were jolly comfortable, which was the best thing about them.
Sinking my feet into thick fur was delightful for my poor old toes – which are usually plunged into painful pointy stilettos every day.
Because the loafers are so fashionable that I remain tempted to wear them out in the evening.
But as winter draws in – and though my toes might thank me for the toasty warm fur – I am concerned my ankles will start to feel the cold. And it goes without saying that these backless loafers are no good in the rain.
The LA-based stars may keep wearing them, but I suspect this trend has a short shelf life in the UK.
My ultra-chic leather loafers now live where they really should stay – by the fireplace.