I discovered Autograf New York shoes this spring by happy accident. I’m never not on the hunt for great shoes in my size 12-13, but recent issues with low-quality heels (at not insignificant price points, I might add) have left me wanting an alternative, but certainly not expecting it—better shoes that put comfort and fit first, while being on-point aesthetically. In Autograf, I found fit, fashion, and feel—and can happily say that I’ve never tried an ankle boot that felt so good on my size 12-13 foot, looked so incredibly awesome (you can read more of my review of the VERA, here), and withstood city gravel, pavement, and walking without a blemish. In learning more about how this brand offering stylish, comfortable shoes for women sizes 4-13 came to be, I got acquainted with the exceptional Monika Kusinska Paez, President and Creative Director of Autograf. From the start of our conversation, Monika’s passion, expertise, and creativity resonated in her every word. She has lived as a tall (5’10”) woman with size 12 feet, and quite literally experienced the pain of not fitting in. She has worked in shoe design and manufacturing for almost 2 decades, experiencing the market’s male dominance and focus on profits over all else. And she has spent her life soaking up the world with her eyes, and translating her vision into individualistic and modern designs. Her mission as an entrepreneur is one we can all get behind: she is taking back women’s footwear to provide us busy, professional types with exceptionally-crafted shoes that not only look beautiful, but actually help us live our lives on-the-go. Though Autograf is new to the world (born in 2014), I have no doubt that Monika and her brand will become household names very soon—and give the guys–from Vince Camuto and Christian Louboutin—some nice long runs run for their money.
Every shoe is designed and perfected by Monika, and handcrafted in a 40 year-old family factory in Italy of the finest and most unique leathers, on soft leather soles and sturdy lasts. With Monika’s advice, and given my year-round donning of ankle boots, I opted to try the VERA Chelsea bootie—a streamlined, pull-on style designed in a perforated black calf leather on a specialized sacchetto construction. Sacchettois an old world shoemaking technique, only practiced today by a handful of factories in Italy. It entails hand-stitching the lining and the insole together and sewing the whole piece to the upper—which is then shaped on a last for days. The effect, once on the foot, is that the inner leather sock molds to the foot and moves independently from the outer leather—allowing for a first-in-class fit.
When I pulled on the VERAs myself, I was overwhelmed by how light and sock-like they indeed felt—unlike any other boot I had ever worn! As close to barefoot as I could possibly feel with such a degree of coverage! So soft, and not pinching, pulling, or squeezing my feet anywhere! And even without a heel, the almond toe was flattering and leg lengthening! The zigzag pattern of the breathable leather was singularly cool, and really versatile for spring wear too! These were the shoes I had always hoped for! As I took them out for their first wear, my enthusiasm was palpable—I was comfortable enough to kick my heels up, and perch atop railings in them. The VERAs bent and moved with me, not inhibiting in the least. I realized after trying these wonderful shoes from Autograf New York why savvy consumers talk about cost per wear and investing in quality—why quality really matters. It matters because it is something you can feel from first wear. And if you don’t believe me, take it from your grandmother: you want to be pampering those tootsies for as long as possible.