For Real Haute Dogs, These Shoes Are Made for Stalking

updated 08/14/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/14/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

At first glance, they may give you paws, but if the shoe fits, grin and bear it. That's what Enzo Albanese, 55, senior member of the Italian shoe manufacturing family, decided when he created his line of animal flats. They've been a zoo-in at the family's tony shoe salons ever since, flapping their ears and wiping their whiskers on some of the trendiest tootsies around—like those of Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Audrey Hepburn and Princess Caroline.

Enzo says his intent was to pay "homage to nature" through the designs, which are priced from $160 to $200 per pair ($150 for children's). Perhaps because they also pay homage to a woman's need for whimsy, the shoes, which are available at Albanese stores in New York and Boston, have been walking out at a rate of 45,00 pairs a season. "They sell themselves," says Kiko Albanese, 25, who oversees the company's U.S. operations. "They're charming," says designer Joan Vass, an Albanese customer. "They're surreal but not scary."

Top U.S. seller, and Enzo's first design, is the Mouse, followed in popularity by the Panda, the Frog, the Rabbit and the Monkey. Other species currently available are the Ram, the Zebra and the Lion. Next season the family plans to introduce a litter of dogs for your dogs in the form of such purebreds as dalmatians, sharpeis and pointers. Also in the works are a snake and a butterfly.

Despite the exotic inspiration, the leather flats use no endangered feathers or hides. "We are very much concerned with the environment," says Kiko, noting that the family is negotiating with the Italian World Wildlife Fund to contribute a portion of their Panda shoe profits on a regular basis. "We don't think people should kill the animals," he explains. "They should wear them."

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