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Slipping on the glitz

February 05, 2003|Booth Moore | Times Staff Writer

It's not everywhere that a New York designer who goes by the name of Miss Trish of Capri could open a sandal boutique during the dead of winter. So to display her jewels for the feet, Trish Carroll has taken over a corner of the flower-filled terrace at the Frederic Fekkai salon on Rodeo Drive.

Shaded by a sunflower yellow cabana, her collection is an upscale twist on Capri's traditional made-to-order sandals. Like the tourist favorites, hers come in a rainbow of colors and several heel heights. But perched atop the straps of Carroll's designs are crystal and coral-encrusted starfish and shells that bring to mind brooches and ear clips by jewelers Kenneth Jay Lane or Verdura. Other pairs are decorated with fire-breathing dragons that sit on the toes and bracelets of heavy Romanesque coins that wrap around the ankles.

Like Jack Rogers sandals, which were popularized by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the 1960s and have reappeared on chic feet for the past few summers, Carroll's shoes have a nostalgic appeal. They recall a time in the 1950s and '60s when Monte Carlo, St. Tropez, Portofino and Capri were sandy playgrounds for Brigitte Bardot and Roger Vadim, Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti, Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly. Back then, says Carroll, Capri sandals were collectible. "All the glamorous women were buying them, and they still have them today because they are iconic in a way."

With a year-round tan and blond-streaked hair, Carroll looks every bit the jet-setter she's trying to appeal to. A former accessories designer for Nine West, Ralph Lauren, Celine and Narciso Rodriguez, she started her own business last year with a cabana set up on Montauk Highway in the Hamptons. Connected to a farm stand at the Wolffer Estate Vineyard, the boutique attracted a steady stream of sophisticates who stopped by for a pair of sandals and a glass of Chardonnay. But alas, at the end of the summer she had to close down.

Fekkai, the hairstylist, is a friend, and it was he who suggested Carroll sell her shoes, priced from $175 to $375, in his Provencal-style salon, which also features sunglasses, cosmetics and hair accessories. "It's perfect for our clientele," Fekkai says. "These sandals are the embodiment of L.A. and all the resorts our ladies are going to."

Fekkai was en route to the Hamptons last summer when he spotted Carroll's stand. "It was really cool with a yellow awning and all these beautiful sandals. And women were rushing to it. It was really a sexy moment," he says.

Since she pitched her tent on the terrace in December, she has been coming to L.A. every chance she gets. "Women can get very glamorous here," she says. "They put things together in different ways and are more daring.... They understand wearing combat pants with high-heeled sandals. The climate allows them to be more expressive in that way."

And when she's at home in frigid Manhattan, well, she still tries to wear her creations. For a trunk show on a breezy 25-degree day in December, Carroll appeared in a sable coat, and luggage-brown stiletto sandals with slithering jade lizards on top.

"On the street, people were looking at the sandals on my feet like I was crazy," she says. But once the shock wore off, they would ask where they could buy them. "I guess wearing them really is the best advertising," she says. "If I can stand it."

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