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“It sent me into a panic _ what was I going to wear to Fashion Week?” says Patel, fashion director of the online retail site modaoperandi.com. “Ninety percent of my closet is heels. Ballerina flats? Not my style.” But a colleague suggested the Louboutins _ “the perfect solution.” She’ll be wearing them to the upcoming shows in London, Milan and Paris.

Downing, of Nieman Marcus, says there’s a good reason for all the dressing up. After all, the fashionistas who form most of the audience at runway shows _ buyers, stylists, major clients and of course celebrities _ have rather a duty to, well, take one for the team. (Easy for him to say.) “Listen,” Downing says, “footwear is a true indicator of style, and where fashion is, and where it’s going. We’re an industry of image. So it’s important that we do our part.”

And it’s not a burden, offers Patel _ it’s a pleasure. “Fashion Week is like going back to school _ you want to pull out your new clothes and new shoes and show everyone,” she says. Even better: “You’re not the only one teetering on 140-milimeter gold platform heels. Everyone is. It’s wonderful!”

At a packed Fashion Week party a few nights earlier, Clement Z., as this stylist from Shanghai calls himself, is chatting with friends. Your eyes gravitate down to his feet. How can they not? They’re brilliantly jeweled. He’s wearing what he calls his Aladdin shoes.

“They’re Armani, from the women’s collection,” he says. “I can do that because I’m just a size 39.” (That’s a size 8 for Americans.) Kudos to Clement _ they look great. And he knows it.

“Shoes are the most important part of the whole outfit,” he says. “I tell my clients: Buy the most basic outfits, but follow the trends of shoes every season.”

Kyle Anderson couldn’t agree more. We catch up with the accessories director for Marie Claire at the Phillip Lim show, an especially hip event peopled by indie musicians. He’s wearing an extremely colorful pair from Prada. “All accessories, including shoes, are a million times more important than clothes,” he says. “You can buy simple clothes, but you can’t fake accessories.”

On a frigid Sunday morning, on line outside the Catherine Malandrino show with the wind whipping off the Hudson River, is a woman who’s definitely NOT faking the accessories.

A fashion outsider might look at the feet of Laetitia Chaix and think she is trying to emulate Chewbacca from “Star Wars.” Yes, the Wookiee. That person would be wrong.

Chaix is actually wearing seriously chic Chanel fur boots. They would not be out of place at the South Pole (or on the planet Alderaan.) “I call them my grizzly boots,” she says. “They were perfect for today. I don’t get to wear them too much, because they are so hot.”

In fact, muses Chaix, the boots are so hot, “one could wear them today with only a little bathing suit.”

Now, THAT’S going for it.