How Irish 'king of the shoes' brought the royals to heel
Published 26/02/2014 | 02:30
LITTLE did Henry Ryan suspect when he left Cahir, Co Tipperary, after the famine that his descendants would end up as shoe kings and dress the feet of three successive British queens.
The Irishman launched a theatrical shoe brand in London, morphing the family name from Ryan to Rayne.
And those shoes have been good to the Irish Ryans.
Henry's grandson Edward received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth, who wore Rayne ivory duchess satin slingbacks with seed pearl trim on her wedding day in 1947.
"My father used to visit the queen at Buckingham Palace four times a year with our shoes," explained Edward's son Nick who came to Dublin yesterday to mark the opening of a Rayne pop-up shop at Brown Thomas, Grafton Street.
After a 20-year absence from the marketplace, the Rayne brand has re-launched with French designer Laurence Dacade mixing modern styling with historical references, bringing the house to life to an entirely new audience.
Her floral embroidered gold nubuck ankle boots (€710) and sparkly glitter heels (€610), all made in Italy, are a far cry from the chunky, low heels, which the royal women like the queen, Princesses Margaret and Princess Anne have worn.
Two years ago, it emerged that the queen, who has assistants to break in her shoes for comfort, likes a two-and-a-quarter-inch heel and the option of another quarter-inch on the sole for use on grass.
In the world of posh shoes where designers are often household names, famous clients are the life blood for success, and Rayne shoes have featured in countless Hollywood movies.
In 'Anthony & Cleopatra' they were worn by Vivien Leigh, and Elizabeth Taylor wore them in 'Cleopatra' while Diana Rigg wore them in 'The Avengers'.
Laurence follows in the footsteps of iconic designers like Roger Vivier, Jean Muir and Mary Quant, who designed her first leather stacked stiletto heels and Shirley Temple-style ankle-straps for Rayne in 1960.
With a nod to the brand's illustrious past, the new designer for Rayne has reactivated the Wedgwood cameo trim, which hit the headlines when they were released in New York in 1958.
The heels featured classical figures in bas-relief Jasperware but, for SS14, Laurence Dacade designed figures in resin to decorate the heels of €610 sandals modelled at Brown Thomas yesterday by former Miss Ireland Sarah Morrissey.
In another historic twist, the display and bird cages in which the shoes were displayed at Brown Thomas were made by Thomas Messel, nephew of the flamboyant stage and interior designer Oliver Messel, who originally designed the Rayne flagship shop that stood on London's Old Bond Street where the Fenwick department store is today.
An archive of Rayne shoes can permanently be found at the V&A, the Royal Collections at Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace and as far afield as the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto.
Collectors' items include Rayne shoe boxes from the early 1950s, which had three royal warrants, from Queen Elizabeth II, her mother and her grandmother, Queen Mary of Teck.