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Stepping Out

Let Arlene Matthews, shoe buyer extraordinaire, be your guide to the season’s cutting edge footwear.

When Jim Wetzel and Lance Lawson, owners of Jake, the boutique on Southport Avenue, thought about their new Gold Coast store (opening this month at 939 N. Rush St.; 312-664-5553), they decided to introduce a shoe department. So they hired their favorite local show room owner, Arlene Matthews. Since 2001, this 37-year-old fashion fanatic has been hooking up trendy Chicago stores with apparel and accessories like Eberjey intimates, Mai cashmere, and Elliott Lucca handbags from her Clutch Studio in the Merchandise Mart. Now she’s the shoe-buyer-in-chief for what looks like the beginning of a retail empire. She talked shop with Chicago.

 

PERSONAL STYLE: “Chic and easy. I don’t like serious or complicated pieces. My life is busy, busy, busy, so I need my pieces to work in a hundred different situations. Like my Wyeth sequin top that I wear in the evening as well as poolside.”

 

BIGGEST STYLE INFLUENCE: “The city-I love big cities, the energy and the individuality. I go to New York every other month, and I just walk the streets.”

 

FAVORITE FALL TREND: “Metallic-but chocolate and graphite metallic instead of gold and silver. And the combination of metallic with other materials like exotic skins. One boot trimmed in metallic that I bought for fall is a really rounded toe on a stacked heel. I also have this gold metallic pump with gray croco detailing and a peep toe. It works beautifully.”

 

THE LAST FIVE THINGS SHE BOUGHT: Tickets to The Killers ($75 apiece on Craig’s List). An Edward Daniel black-and-white photograph of Chinese New Year in Chinatown ($350 at a charity auction). Fernanda Niven light-pink nappa leather clutch trimmed in gold metallic ($415 at Scoop NYC in New York). Generra second-skin tees in beige and white ($62 each at Barneys New York). Pink leather moccasin pumps by Chloe with an exaggerated bow ($435 at Barneys New York)-"They’re so comfortable, I can run in them.”

 

ON BUYING SHOES: “I look at a shoe, and I think ‘Day, night, and play-how can I wear them?’ Whatever level of sophistication, they have to be fun. Just adding that element adds so much to the way a woman moves and feels.”

 

SHOE DESIGNERS SHE LOVES (THAT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF): “Beatrix Ong of London. The craftsmanship is unbelievable, and [her shoes are] very playful at the same time. I love Johanna Ho, who is also out of London. She’s more midline in terms of prices and has a little bit of rock to her. I bought her slouchy boots in ivory-no black.”

 

I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT MY . . . “Mai cashmere. I have Mai cashmere in every color and style: choked-up crew neck, fitted little tee, a layering piece for underneath the tee, long-sleeved crew neck, and scarves. I layer up my cashmere and, with sequined pants or jeans, it feels luxurious. It’s an addiction.”

 

SHE NEVER WEARS . . . “Jellies. There’s nothing I like about the Jelly. The colors are off, and they look so uncomfortable. And I don’t like cowboy boots. They take the attention away from everything else you’re wearing-jeans or a skirt. And everyone always walks funny in them.”

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