MILAN: Italian luxury shoemaker Alberto Moretti unveiled his new collection in Milan on Saturday, with ruched collar designs, brassiere gold chains and macaroon patterns in a "rock" take on the style of France's last queen, Marie Antoinette.
"She is a figure who can be interpreted in a thousand different ways," the dandyish 38-year-old designer, dressed in a red-checked jacket and leopard-skin loafers, told AFP in his showroom.
"In my vision, she is part rock, part sensual and part playful, with a reference to the cakes she liked," said Moretti, who got private equity funding last year for a major expansion -- the latest sign of corporate interest in young designers.
Moretti only has one shop in St Tropez but distributes widely, including in the United States through Barneys department store in New York, and received attention by selling shoes made with 24-carat gold in Dubai for $4,800 (3,500 euros).
He said he was also "starting to make contacts" in Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, expanding in South America and was planning to open another store in Milan or Paris by the end of the year.
Shoes are one of the fastest-growing sectors in the luxury industry, with the world shoe market valued at $17 billion in 2013, up from $15 billion in 2012 according to the consultancy Bain & Co.
Moretti's fall/winter 2014-15 designs for Milan Fashion Week also featured velvet roses applied to decollete shoes and "cuissarde" boots finishing above the knee in a design "inspired by the uniforms of the French revolution".
"I go for maximum sexiness but without that becoming vulgarity and I always try and be a bit ironic. I write little phrases under the soles," he said, pointing out two phrases on one pair "Life is a Party" and "Dress Like It".
"It's fetishism but it always exalts women, it doesn't mortify them," he said.
Moretti said that, while other countries can also produce quality shoes, the secret of Italian craftsmanship lies in the vision of individual artisans.
"The artisan is creative here. He becomes a designer too. A Chinese artisan might be able to make a perfect shoe but he does not have that," Moretti said.
"You go to someone who makes heels and you find someone crazy. You talk to him about your idea and, working with him, maybe you can bring out a heel that is even more 'wow'," he added.
Moretti, who is estimated to have an annual turnover of 10 million euros, said it was a constant challenge to try and "find room" among the big brand names.
But he said he was helped by customers looking for new types of shoes "instead of something they can find in every department store in the world".
And he already has a celebrity following.
Among the stars recently spotted in Morettis have been Elton John, Lady Gaga, Ryan Gosling and Cameron Diaz.