It can be easy to feel like every designer shoe looks the same. While certain silhouettes appear everywhere you look, the thing that makes a shoe distinctive is its embellishments.
Classic patent leather shoes will never go out of style, but how a designer decorates and embellishes a shoe makes it more unique.
Whether it’s the brand’s signature or on-trend embellishments, designers find a way to make every shoe their own. We’re looking at nine ways that designers decorate and embellish their shoes, along with the styles that deserve to be on your wish list.
1. Beaded Shoes: A Throwback to the ’90s
Beads might have been something you weaved through your laces as a child, but now they’re not in style. They’re an easy embellishment to incorporate into a style and are starting to appear in low-top sneakers.
One of our favorite styles is the beaded fringed Superga sneakers by one of the Duchess of Cambridge’s favorite brands. These sneakers remind us of the beaded bracelets synonymous with the ‘90s while incorporating the tassels trend.
White Mira Mikati x Superga sneakers with multicolored grommets and beaded tassels for a carefree off-duty look
The beaded fringed sneakers are part of a collaboration between Superga and Mira Mikati and take the sneaker brand’s signature 2750 style and give them a colorful Italian update. Mira Mikati’s playful style inspired the wooden beads and neon color palette.
Another Superga collaboration that incorporates beading is the Olivia Rubin x Superga lace-up sneakers. These quirky and feminine sneakers have a pastel color palette with pearl beading tied into the laces.
Olivia Rubin x Superga lace-up sneakers with imitation pearl beads
Historically, one of the original beaded shoes was the Peranakan beaded slippers – called Kasut Manik.
These beaded slippers are made by blending beadwork and embroidery and are still worn today for Chinese New Year and birthdays.
2. Crystal-Studded Shoes: A Modern Take on the Glass Slipper
If there’s one thing that designers like to do, it’s to add bling to their shoes. Most designer shoes will set you back anywhere from $700 to $2000.
Exquisite craftsmanship and luxurious embellishments define the world of top-ticket designer shoes. Adorned with dazzling crystals and shimmering rhinestones, these footwear masterpieces command a hefty price tag.
Ever since Cinderella enchanted us with her glass slipper, designers have been driven to create unique interpretations of this iconic shoe, captivating fashion enthusiasts worldwide.
Whether you’re shopping for bridal shoes or a style to wear at the weekend, crystal and rhinestone shoes are among the most popular designer embellishments.
Layered from toe to heel in luxurious Swarovski crystals, this classic pointy-toe pump from Jimmy Choo features a dramatic spike heel
Some designers have even made the embellishment their signature. Like her satin Begum mules, you’ll rarely find a pair of Amina Muaddi shoes without an oversized crystal or a rhinestone strap.
These embellishments are chosen to appeal to the brand’s niche demographic, often partygoers or those who aren’t afraid to make a statement.
Amina Muaddi’s black Begum mules are embellished with crystal buckles for an opulent mood
The beauty of crystals and rhinestones is that they allow you to take a classic and understated silhouette and give the shoe a new look. All it takes is a few well-placed crystals and rhinestones.
Swarovski crystal shoes are in a league of their own. Christian Louboutin’s bridal range is synonymous with crystals and rhinestones. The Degrastrass heels feature hand-placed crystals set on transparent PVC, giving the shoe a look of effortless glamour.
Designers often use crystals and rhinestones to reimagine a signature style for a contemporary audience. Manolo Blahnik’s popular Lurum champagne satin crystal-embellished mules are exactly what Carrie Bradshaw would wear today.
Sparkling crystal leaves vine across this pointy-toe satin pump, showcasing Manolo Blahnik’s flair for dramatic embellishment (Credit: Manolo Blahnik)
Roger Vivier is another designer brand that isn’t afraid to experiment with crystals and rhinestones. Their RV Lounge leather slippers blend comfort with rhinestones to create an elevated mule loafer.
3. Star-Studded Shoes: The Latest Shoe Trend
Designers often take inspiration from the world around us, with stars being no exception. While we might be used to seeing stars and celestial symbols on bags and jewelry, they increasingly appear in our footwear.
Since Golden Goose jumped up in popularity amongst celebrities and influencers, it seems every designer is coming out with star-embellished sneakers.
Stars are one of the brand’s synonymous features and appear on almost every sneaker style. The Super-Star sneakers in white and gold leather feature an embellished metallic star.
Super-Star sneakers by Golden Goose with signature star patch on the sides
Stars aren’t the only thing that Golden Goose likes to embellish on their shoes. The pink glitter Super-Star leather sneakers will remind you of the night sky with sparkly glitter and a contrasting white star.
Saint Laurent has released their take on Golden Goose sneakers with the Court Classic SL/06 metallic California sneakers in leather.
These shoes differ in style as they have a repeating star motif and perforated stripes while also lacking the overall distressed look of Golden Goose shoes. If you want elevated stars, these are the shoes for you.
White leather and rubber Court Classic SL/06 metallic California sneakers from Saint Laurent with multiple star patches
It’s not just sneakers that feature stars. Sophia Webster is a designer who isn’t afraid to shy away from feminine silhouettes and motifs.
Her Rosalind Star heels remind us of a rainbow with their ombre pastel glitter textile and 100mm stacked star heel. These shoes are designed to make you feel like a superstar with every step.
4. Pearls: A Feminine Embellishment for Shoes
Pearls are one of their most feminine embellishments, instantly elevating any pair of shoes. This embellishment offers an effortlessly chic twist to classic shoes, giving contemporary shoes a Parisian twist.
For a budget-friendly option, check out the Shore Light blue leather block heels by Moda in Pelle. These shoes are available in ten colorways, featuring a sculptural silhouette that incorporates individually placed lustrous pearls.
Sculptural blue sandal with head-turning block heel featuring lustrous pearls
Another affordable style that incorporates pearls is ASOS’s Paphos pearl detail high-heeled shoes. These pointed-toe shoes feature faux-pearl embellishments across the straps, contrasting against the jacquard fabric.
Jacquard Asos Paphos pearl detail high-heeled shoes
Jimmy Choo is one brand that has already been featured on this list. The brand isn’t afraid to embrace different embellishments and decorations, with pearls no exception.
The Sacora 100 faux pearl-embellished sandals show the art of maximalism glamour. These white satin shoes have faux pearls and logo-engraved beading. They’re one of Jimmy Choo’s signature bridal shoes, perfect for brides and wedding guests.
Pearl appears in another innovative way in the Soraya Ivory block heel sandal by Freya Rose. These statement heels feature mother-of-pearl that is carefully crafted into a floral design inside the brass block heel.
Freya Rose’s Soraya statement sandal features a unique mother of pearl and polished brass block heel with a carefully crafted floral design
5. Pom-Pom Shoes: A Fun and Feminine Way to Add a Touch of Summer
Is there anything more fun than pom-poms on your feet? While you might be used to seeing pom-poms on keychains, this embellishment is no stranger in women’s footwear. They have a classic bohemian feel and give any outfit a free-spirited aesthetic.
Pom poms are synonymous with summer and add a playful feminine twist to classic shoe silhouettes. The embellishment was popular throughout the early 2000s and is returning to the footwear scene following the resurgence of 2000s-inspired fashion.
These pink Aquazzura X Browns 50 120 pom-pom leather sandals have been made in Italy
Aquazzura is one brand that seems to incorporate pom poms into every style they can. The Aquazzura x Browns 50 pink 120 pom-pom leather sandals are an ultimate party shoe, incorporating an ankle strap fastening with a feathered pom-pom and caged toe.
The brand also has summer-appropriate sandals, such as their sunset-ready woven pompom-embellished sandals featuring both raffia and pom-poms.
These slip-on summer mule sandals are finished with pompom detailing
Aquazzura also has a mule-heel version of these sandals if you want a more elevated style.
6. Tassels: The Rock Chic Embellishment
Tassels aren’t just for your vintage leather jackets. These embellishments are synonymous with the 70s, adding a touch of rock chic to any outfit.
They’re the ultimate party girl shoe, whether you’re heading out for cocktails with friends or hitting up the latest music festival. You can style them with everything from straight-leg jeans to a little black cocktail dress.
Valentino’s Upflair high-heel sandals feature a tassel detailing that turns the understated strappy sandal into a statement piece. The tassel is almost as long as the thin stiletto, although you’ve no danger of stepping on the ends of it.
Crafted from leather, these black Upflair sandals from Valentino Garavani are decorated with tassel detailing
Jimmy Choo makes another appearance on this list with their Viola 110 crystal & feather suede sandals that show that sometimes, more is better.
Exquisitely crafted, these shoes intertwine contrasting crystals, accentuated by an elegant ostrich tassel feather gracefully draping over your arch.
The meticulous buckle detailing and front strap lend an enchanting touch, making these shoes an ideal companion in unparalleled style for dancing the night away.
Tassels can also be a fun embellishment to add to everyday shoes. The Clover patterned vibrant summer loafer by HB Shoes is available in four color palettes and adds a bohemian twist to the classic silhouette.
7. Feather Shoes: The Sultry Shoe Trend
You might have grown up wearing feathers in your hair or found yourself lusting after a feather dress, but have you thought of adding feather shoes to your closet?
Exuding an air of sultriness, this captivating embellishment finds its place on alluring footwear, especially high heels. Drawing inspiration from boudoir-style trends, these shoes become the epitome of elegance, making them the perfect choice for any special occasion.
Whether heading to a birthday dinner or stepping out for cocktails, feather shoes are one style you want to have in your closet.
About Last Night is a budget-friendly style of feather lace-up heels by Oh Polly. They feature a diamante feather strap with a thin stiletto heel and a lace-up strap guaranteed to steal the show.
Bottega Veneta’s turquoise Dot stiletto heel sandals are made from lamb leather with ostrich feathers
One designer brand that has embraced the feather trend and run with it this season is Bottega Veneta.
While the brand is synonymous with understated silhouettes and textures, they’ve been getting bold with their footwear. The feather dot sandals are available in four color options and feature leather and ostrich feathers.
For statement shoes that won’t break the bank but are attainable luxury, check out Twinset. Their satin sandals with feathers are available in beige and fuchsia pink.
Pink satin Twinset sandals with feathers, ankle strap, and leather sole
The contrasting feathers appear across the ankle straps of the shoes, taking a minimalistic silhouette and making them more Vegas-appropriate.
8. Flowers and Butterflies: The Whimsical Embellishment
Imbued with feminine charm, flowers, and butterflies gracefully adorn footwear, adding a touch of enchantment. These whimsical embellishments find their place on heels of various styles, from abstract strap designs to delicate silk satin roses.
If you want to add a whimsical twist to your outfit, these are the shoes that you want to be styling.
Saint Laurent’s Ivy flower sandals in silk satin feature a thin strap and almond toe with flower detailing, replicating the shape of a rose in bloom. These heels are available in emerald, black, and magenta.
Fuchsia pink Ivy sandals from Saint Laurent featuring gathered floral appliqués at the toe straps
Flowers are another embellishment that Aquazzura experiments with. Their Bougainvillea sandal pays homage to the beautiful Bougainvillea flower, with petals that bloom across the shoe.
Whimsical floral appliqué and delicate ties that encircle the ankle add a romantic touch to these metallic leather sandals
If you’re looking for a more casual style, check out the latest style by Superga. Their 2750 Jellygum Flower Bloom shoes take the brand’s signature silhouette and add a flower-covered sole for a quirky and feminine twist.
Some designers even go as far as to use nature to inspire their signature embellishments. Sophia Webster is a designer synonymous with butterflies, which appear throughout her footwear.
The Chiara heels are her most famous style, with new colors added each season. These shoes have a screen-printed 3D butterfly wing detail above the 100mm heel.
9. Valentino Rockstuds: The Iconic Shoe Trend
Valentino is one brand that took an understated embellishment, made it their signature, and turned it into one of the biggest footwear trends of recent years.
Everyone has found themselves looking at the Valentino Rockstud shoes at least once, and they spent several years at the top of the most coveted designer shoe list.
The Italian fashion house took a simplistic leather-heeled sandal, giving them a contemporary feel and a rock chic look with Rockstuds.
Their iconic So Noir 100 Rockstud heels have inspired everything from bracelets to handbags and other footwear silhouettes. Check out Valentino’s Rockstud point-toe leather ballet flats if you prefer flat shoes.
Valentino Garvani So Noir Rockstud patent-leather heeled sandals and point-toe leather ballet flats
Embellishments serve as the creative canvas for designers and brands to personalize classic silhouettes, infusing them with their unique artistic vision. Shoe decoration is vast and diverse, with countless possibilities for adornment.
While these nine embellishments represent just a glimpse into this world, they demonstrate the ingenuity and artistry that designers employ to decorate their shoes, elevating them to extraordinary heights.
Some people find an embellishment that fits their aesthetic and makes it their signature. Whether you’re looking for floral shoes or crystal-embossed heels, we hope this list has given you inspiration for your next shoe purchase.
Which of these embellishments is your favorite?