PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAY CHROHM. STYLING, NAHLA WATFA. MAKEUP, EMILIA KUCZMA-POREBSKA
Shirley Ibe’s stockpile of stilettos is uplifting — in more ways than one.
Date April 27, 2022
Shirley Ibe has not followed her father’s advice. “His mindset was always quality over quantity,” the makeup artist shares of her dad’s shopping mantra. But with around 250 pairs of designer heels (recently reduced from 400 after a closet cleanout), she says she’s chosen both. “I’ve definitely gone to the extreme in terms of quantity,” she laughs.
Growing up in Canada, Libya and Malaysia, Ibe always loved beautiful things. The collector credits her parents with cultivating her passions, whether they took the form of cosmetics or clothing. “I grew up in a household where appearance was important,” she reveals. “My mom was one of those women who always looked put together, and I never, ever saw my dad in jeans.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAY CHROHM
While Ibe’s initial infatuation with designer high heels came from her family, it wasn’t until university that her adoration became a full-on obsession. “My girlfriends and I used to go out all the time in matching outfits,” she says. “We started getting recognized for our fashion, so that’s when I truly began to build my shoe collection.” As a student, Ibe started her collection with more wallet-friendly wares, but everything changed once her late father introduced her to the world of designer footwear. “I don’t know what sparked it, but on a Christmas vacation in Florida in 2004, he decided to buy me, my sister and my mom each something designer,” recounts Ibe. In what she describes as a 21-year-old’s dream, her dad took her to Dior, where she chose her very first pair of luxury sandals.
Now housed in a walk-in wardrobe in her home in Calgary, her assortment has grown to include a candy land of colours and brand names and features luxury labels such as Chanel, Gucci, Manolo Blahnik, Saint Laurent and Versace. With so many styles to choose from, Ibe tends to dress herself from the bottom up. “I think about what outfit I can wear with certain shoes versus what shoes I can wear with a specific outfit,” she notes.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAY CHROHM
Citing Rihanna as her fashion inspiration, the collector describes her own aesthetic as “colourful, eclectic and fun” and says she seeks out shoes that fit those same criteria. Continuing with this more-is-more mentality, Ibe loves a sky-high heel. Among her tallest are a pair of Christian Louboutin “Equestria” platform boots with a 16-centimetre heel. “I’ve never struggled walking in platforms,” she shares. “I’ve always found them comfortable.” That said, the aficionado also admits she’s never been one to give in to defeat. “Heels are a commitment,” she says. “If I’m going to wear them, then I’m gonna wear them. I don’t care how my feet will feel.
Despite occasionally feeling guilty about her vast stash of designer heels, Ibe isn’t ashamed of buying things that bring her joy. “Some days I think to myself ‘Man, you have a lot of shoes,’” she reflects. “But they’re an art form. I truly appreciate the craftsmanship and design behind them.” She often finds herself just standing in her closet, basking in all of her collection’s glory. “My mom always told me that heels lift you up both physically and mentally, and she was right,” says Ibe. “The power of a heel is that it can make you feel sexier and more confident. The transformation is instant.”
Click through the gallery below to see more of Ibe’s collection of designer heels.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
While all the females in Ibe’s family share a love of high heels, her mother takes it to the extreme. “When my mom sprained her ankle, she wore a shorter version of these Saint Laurent shoes,” Ibe recalls. “We asked why she was wearing them, and she was like, ‘It’s fine! They’re my comfortable heels.’”
“I definitely went through a Christian Louboutin phase,” admits Ibe of these towering platform boots. “I can honestly say that his styles are the most uncomfort – able to wear, but I just love all the bright colours and outrageous heights.”
After nearly two decades of collecting, Ibe says that her first pair of designer footwear, purchased by her late father, still holds a special place in her hoard. She has fond memories of shopping for these Dior sandals with him while vacationing in Florida.
Out of her 250 pairs of heels, Ibe believes she has fewer than 15 black ones. Why? “I’m drawn to colour,” she explains. “If it’s a neutral, the shoe has to have a really dynamic design—like these ones from Alexander McQueen.”
Ibe has shoes in almost every colour, but, as seen in this rosy reservoir, the collector does have a clear favourite. “I naturally gravitate toward anything bright, but I do love pinks,” she shares.
Although she’s desperate to wear these Chanel shoes in Vegas, Ibe has been too afraid to travel with them. “When I opened the box, there was a note inside that said something like ‘Do not pack these in your carry-on or checked luggage because security will think you’re carrying a gun.’ So, to avoid any trouble, I’ve never worn them,” she says.
“My sister, Liza Egbogah of Dr. Liza, is a footwear designer, and she actually named her pumps after me,” Ibe says affectionately. Because of their orthotic insoles, she lists the “Shirley’s” as her “go-to comfortable heels.”
This article first appeared in FASHION’s May issue. Find out more here.
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