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Fashion 89 : Rags to Britches & Trendy Trekkers

Oscar de la Renta, the New York designer, was on a December holiday in Aspen, Colo., when he came across a little-known shoe store and purchased two pairs of all-purpose, comfortable and--quite frankly--homely walking shoes.

So enthused was De la Renta about his new ugly ducklings, he reportedly raved to Barbara Walters, who bought two pairs. Then society superstars Sid and Mercedes Kellogg Bass grabbed seven pairs each. A trend was born: a Reebok challenger named Mephisto.

Oscar was onto something. Mephisto, a 26-year-old shoe company based in Sarrebourg, France, offers 30 models of walking, hiking and golf shoes for men and women. However, owner Martin Micheali, philosophically opposed to running, won’t make track shoes.

Pretty--Mephistos are not. What they are is: French-made, expensive ($150 to $250 for state-of-the-art trekking boots), padded, roomy, leather-lined, durable (if the latex and rubber soles wear thin, for $20 the shoes can be sent to France for resoling). And very, very yuppie.

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Retailer Jeff Smyth found the shoes in Europe some time back. “I said: ‘Yuppieville--this is going to go over in Brentwood,’ ” he recalls. He opened a shop on San Vicente Boulevard, the only free-standing Mephisto shop outside of Aspen.

“Yuppies today want things that last. They want quality,” Smyth adds. “And ugly is in. The uglier the better.”


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