Fashion festival: look back on a decade of shoes of the week

Stylist Karlya Smith looks back on her favorite images from Sunday the magazine’s iconic accessory section.

I remember very well the first shoe of the week that I created because of a story of Kim Knight, Sunday editor of the magazine at the time. On her first day in the role, she’d had to justify my use of overripe bananas to the male suit editor at Fairfax, Stuff’s former parent company.

“I have a question,” said the editor (and you’ll have to imagine a broad Queensland accent here). “Why did you use an overripe banana?” Fortunately, she could see that the spots matched the spotted pattern on the shoes.

Photographer Belinda Merrie and I started shooting a stylish image for Shoe of the Week in 2012, a column that since the first issue of Sundayoriginally executed with a simple plain white background.

After a bit of shutting down and restarting the lockdown, I realized late last year that this new stylized version of SOTW had turned 10 years old. like in 2022. In honor of this decade of great shoes and the Stuff’s Festival of Fashion, I decided to browse through some of our Shoe of the Week contact cards and reminisce about some of the particularly standout ones.

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A Karen Walker boot, styled and photographed for Sunday magazine's Shoe of the Week in 2012 by Karlya Smith and Belinda Merrie.


A Karen Walker boot, styled and photographed for Sunday magazine’s Shoe of the Week in 2012 by Karlya Smith and Belinda Merrie.

A shot I’ve loved since early 2012, of a Karen Walker boot on a cake. There’s also a memorable, nauseating story to go with it. When I ordered the cake, at Bluebells Cakery I told the owner Karla we wouldn’t eat it, so let’s ice anything – a cake topper or something.

When it arrived I could feel by its weight that it was real cake and of course it looked so good that I wanted to try it. With Belinda cheering me on, we decided to try some shots with a slice cut off, as we could then eat it (uncut, we would have had to turn it over for display in the shop).

Moments after nailing the cake shot, I was hunched over the trash can desperately trying to get every piece of cake out of my mouth: it wasn’t a fresh cake that had been iced, but an old display cake with a new icing. Biting into it, I said to Belinda, “Oh, is there blue cheese in it?” before realizing it and running to the trash can spitting and scratching my tongue. Seconds later, Belinda followed suit.

The Shrimp Cracker snap from 2012 is one of my all-time favorites. Food and shoes are bad on many levels, but I’m okay with that in the name of art. I return again and again to this theme. Someone from Kate Sylvester headquarters later told me there had been a fight over the last few pairs of these shoes.

Probably my favorite shot of 2013 is these strawberry print Converse hi-top sneakers with blue painted apples. To get the perfect bite mark, I bit it myself; the dry paint tasted disgusting the moment it was in my mouth. But I still prefer biting it rather than simulating it with a cutter…

I’d even go so far as to say I don’t like this shoe, from 2013. But I love the orange peel texture in the shot, and the shoe is the perfect match. I don’t think I always need to like the shoe, as long as it inspires a good photo.

The particular sandwich combo for this Soludos pineapple image from 2014 makes my stomach turn! Add soggy tomatoes and it’s my worst nightmare. But a fun shot.

My sourcing modus operandi is to walk into the studio of every designer who can see me. Failing that, a lookbook and a helpful PR person is a plus, as I like to get my hands on the shoes before I start making the sets. Colors and shapes in person are always subtly different from how they look on a website.

In 2014 I picked up this Ruby shoe from their studio. Realizing that the rhinestones would make a great backdrop, I asked their PR, Anna-lise Sharma, if they had any left, and the beauty of a workroom is that they did.

Some of my best work is with Dr. Martens, and I have a few favorite shots, including 2016’s Docs bubblegum. I pre-chewed all of that Hubba Bubba because childhood experience taught me that the gum must be chewed well in order to bubble well. I also had to practice blowing bubbles, then chewing the gum to trap the bubbles, then attaching it to the boot without popping it.

For this photo from 2017, I found these doilies at the Hospice Shop at Three Lamps in Auckland. These are such beautiful handicrafts. I bought them without knowing why, just because they were phenomenally well made. I still have them and I will never get rid of them; they could be beautiful framed.

Veja are sustainable sneakers from Brazil, and I introduced them in 2017. I became more and more aware of what I use and how I use props in my shoots. No more $2 store supply for me. I kept the adhesive bandages of this shot (those that are not glued) and I finally had no more bandages last year!

This 2019 image of some printed Vans is inspired by a photo I saw years ago where the set was made from an old book. With Sunday being a press magazine, the Sunday Star-Times was the only option of course. I love how the crumpled paper really looks like running water. Of all the elements, it was the fastest to do, but it was the best.

The tension in this balloon shot is oddly satisfying, and the transparency of the balloon echoes Louboutins. My favorite book when I was studying was the one with slow motion images of a bullet piercing an apple and a balloon, and this photo from 2019 takes me back there. It took a few tries to smash the ball enough to get the shot, but not to pop the ball.

I can watch this 2019 photo of Kathryn Wilson mules on toothpaste forever. I find the twists and ripples of the squeezed toothpaste captivating. I’ve always been amazed at how the stripe works in toothpaste. I am proud to know that it was the first attempt.

I feel like a million years ago I photographed these Hailwood lobster shoes, in 2020. There’s a 1936 photo by Meret Oppenheim of heels on a serving plate, the sole pulled up, dressed and tied like poultry, with those little paper hats you see in cookbooks or fancy hotels. One day I want to have the courage to pull the soles of the shoes, but until then, this is my nod to that.

This phone is entirely nostalgic for me, as we had a green version of the same phone when I was a kid. I borrowed it from my Uncle Mark who is a collector/hoarder, depending on who you ask. I like that the dial still has the phone number Hawera 86511.

When limbs are needed for a shot, they are always mine. Luckily for this 2020 snap, I do online ballet lessons, so take a really good point. I absentmindedly checked for shots while lying upside down on a table for this setup. The tutu is from the early days of mom’s ballroom dancing. When I was a kid I yearned to own it, and now it hangs in my spare room.

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