Why this dangerous runway trend has to end.


Like any accident waiting to happen, watching a model trip on the runway is painful to watch. But it’s 10 times more painful for the girl that falls.

Last week at the Seccry Hu Sheguang show at China Fashion Week, not one, not two, but three models tumbled over on the catwalk. The spills were made all the more dramatic by Alice In Gagaland costumes and ridiculous headgear. But when you look at the photos, there’s real hurt on the faces of the girls who are falling.

(We recommend you watch this video without the sound…)

That pain was entirely preventable. The reason the models fell was because they were wearing 20 centimetre heels.

20 centimetre heels.

Unless you’re a highly trained circus performer, or a well practiced drag queen, you shouldn’t be asked to wear stilts that high as part of your regular day job. It’s not like these monstrous clod-hopping heels make the clothes look any better. In fact, their proportions just add an entirely unneeded element of awkwardness to a model’s outfit.

A model falling on the catwalk at Chanel's Spring/Summer 2009 Haute Couture show
A model falling on the catwalk at Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2009 Haute Couture show. Source: Snapper Media

The perils of horribly high heels are something all designers should be mindful of next week at Australian Fashion Week. I’ve been to multiple fashion week shows in the past where cheap stripper shoes caused models to tumble. At one memorable show in 2010, the most resourceful models just kicked off their shoes altogether and walked down the runway barefoot. And good on them.

Unwearable heels on the runway are an occupational health and safety issue. They’re another example of the way the fashion industry – right down to design students in TAFE shows – tends to use and abuse models. If a girl sprains, or worse breaks, her ankle because her shoes were too high, or didn’t fit properly, she should be able to claim worker’s compensation from the designer, the stylist, and the venue that let her go on the catwalk in unsafe footwear.

Perhaps the most galling aspect of ridiculous heels on the runway is that it doesn’t do the label any favours either. Flats are the biggest footwear trend of the moment and when Lanvin’s designer Alber Elbaz changed all the shoes to flats at his Spring 2011 show, because he realised his models couldn’t walk in the high heels they were meant to wear, he had an instantly best-selling style on his hands.

So, designers and stylists, this Australian Fashion Week, say no to falling and yes to flats. Your models (and the people who have to watch them walk) will thank you.

Have you ever had a high-heel related accident? Tell us about the most uncomfortable shoes you’ve ever worn.

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