Gail Kandel tries to put her best foot forward

Candid Closet

March 26, 1998|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

It's been 14 years since Gail Kandel opened New York City Shoes in Owings Mills, and since then, she has logged untold miles on her own two feet plumbing show rooms in New York and Italy for unusual women's footwear. Shoes are the "ultimate accessory," says Kandel, whose travel uniform always includes a well-tailored pantsuit and comfortable, nicely detailed flats.

How would you describe your style?

My style is very classic because I'm tall and I like to wear understated clothes that I like to change with accessories. One can take an Armani suit from five or 10 years ago and put on all new accessories and it would look as if you bought the suit yesterday.

What shopping racks do you head toward?

You can never have too many black suits or too many black shoes or too many white blouses. Clothes are like comfort food to me. I put on what my mood calls for that day. A black suit can have any mood. Reds and golds add material interest with a bright scarf. Or you can wear a plain white silk shirt or fTC turtleneck and a pretty pin. Fabulous high heels dress the suit up or classic loafers put you in business for the day.

Black seems to be the only way to go in New York.

I went to the Donna Karan showroom one time and the salesperson said, "Let me welcome you to Donna World. Unless you wear black, the guard probably won't let you in the door."

How do you maintain a classic style while responding to trends?

Style is very personal, and I think your style doesn't change. Fashion will change and you change a little bit to go with it. Pants will get slimmer or wider, but if you're comfortable in pants, you're going to stay there.

Why do you prefer pants?

Nice legs or not, it's faster, easier and more efficient to get around in pants.

What's the shoe forecast for fall?

You are going to see everything from pointed to square to rounded toes. I love pointed toes for evening, they're sleek and sexy. There's some platform interest, but the detail will be in the line of the shoe. There are beautiful, soft leathers with a lot of stretch. A leather called napa feels like butter when you touch it. And there will be a lot of rubber soles that give you a lot of cushioning when you walk.

Besides shoes, what is your favorite accessory?

I always collect scarves. I love beautiful scarves. They look good and they're never out of style. Ferragamo has wonderful scarves decorated with its shoe designs from the earliest times. I got one of those in Hong Kong and I bought one on the Isle of Capri.

Do you have a fashion philosophy?

I'm not a bargain shopper. I love buying something wonderful and enjoying it. I hate wasting my time endlessly trying to shop for something that I might save $5 on. Time is money and I can't afford to put that time and effort into trying to find the bargain of a lifetime. By the time I find it, it's not a bargain. It's not what you paid for it, it's how long you wear it.

What have you learned about Baltimore's sense of fashion from the shoe business?

Baltimore has its very own style. It wears more navy than anybody and more winter white. Baltimoreans like to match navies with navies. It's like the fashion police are going to get you if you don't have navy shoes with a navy dress.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

Pub Date: 3/26/98

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