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A new South Austin shop treats shoes like gallery pieces

By Erin Kuschner

“I've always been able to predict trends in advance,” says Selena McCartney, a native Texan who recently opened her own store, the Art of Shoes, on South 1st Street. The footwear maven first made a name for herself as the store manager at Steve Madden in San Antonio more than 15 years ago, when her spot-on trend reports informed the styles made in the company’s factory. This discerning eye led to an assistant designer position at the Steve Madden headquarters in New York City, where she worked for five years before designing and consulting for Frye, Calvin Klein and Rachel Zoe.

While McCartney still creates shoes for some of today’s biggest stars—she counts Katy Perry as a regular client—her heart belongs to vintage finds. The Art of Shoe’s inventory is split cleanly between vintage and new merchandise, and includes classics like Chanel ballet flats, Rachel Comey sandals and Reebok high-tops that McCartney has collected through her travels.

“I ended up with 3,000 pairs of shoes,” she says, laughing, describing her days running Eloisa Vintage, an independent shoe archive in NYC where she rented and sold kicks to stylists and shoe brands. “Luckily I had a cool landlord—he let me use his basement.”

Now, four years later, vintage pairs sit on pedestals and floating shelves alongside new styles in the Art of Shoes’ 1926 American Craftsman-style cottage—a shoe lover’s dream with cotton-candy–pink walls and tufted velvet seating. Each pair is accompanied by a detailed description of the footwear’s journey, from idea and sketch to finished product, but the museumlike setup is only one aspect of the shop’s design. McCartney’s haven operates as part shoe store, part design studio and part shoemaking workshop; she plans to offer intimate, two-day classes where customers can learn the basics of shoemaking and walk out with their own pair.

Brands run the gamut from Fendi and Rebecca Minkoff to Dolce Vita, and you can expect prices between $50 and $300 per pair. McCartney hopes everyone finds something they love, though she may be an unlikely advocate for actually wearing the shoes: She went barefoot for a period of time when she moved back to her home state. “I would say, ‘Kick these suckers off, I’m in Texas now,’ ” she says with a laugh. “But there’s no in-between for me—it’s all or nothing. The other day I was wearing oxfords with leather flowers all over them.”

Visit The Art of Shoes at 1002 S 1st St. Hours are Tue-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun noon-5pm. 

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