In yet another stunning retrospective, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has just opened its latest exhibition, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain. A show that takes in more than 200 pairs of shoes designed across 2000 years and several continents, the exhibition has been conceived as a tribute to the curiously powerful place shoes hold in our psyche. There is a potency to a pair of shoes, a potential for them to transform and a strength of the statement they make that is much more immediate than that of clothes. Think of how different you feel wearing a pair of stunning heels to your ballet flats, and you’ll understand why we do what we do.
At KOTUR, our approach to shoes is to imbue them with decoration and pizazz, making them little parties for your feet. In our Moroccan inspired Guzels or our flower festooned Jardines, the idea is that the shoe, like our bags, does plenty of talking. This exhibition is a wonderful celebration of extraordinary designs with just the same approach. Starting with the very oldest pair in the exhibit, some slippers from ancient Egypt adorned with gold leaf, through a pair of leather Venetian mules complete with a foot high platform from 1600, some jewel encrusted heels designed by Roger Vivier for Christian Dior in the 1950’s (often known as Fabergé for the feet,) and Zaha Hadid’s six inch high Nova shoes complete with cantilever system, it becomes immediately clear that the intention behind all of these no matter which era they come from is to elevate their wearer to another place. The most recognizable pairs from the show – such as Vivienne Westwood’s purple platforms, responsible for Naomi Campbell’s famous catwalk fall, Carrie Bradshaw’s Jimmy Choos from SATC, the tiny pieces of history that are Chinese silk embroidered slippers designed for bound feet in 19th Century China, Alexander McQueen’s Armadillo booties or Moira Shearer’s Red Shoes from the 1948 film of the same name, seem to only to enforce the point. In this wonderfully laid out walk through the history of shoes, one that reflects on what they say about both their wearers and their makers – the power, pain and pleasure is there for all to see.
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain is on at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London until 31 January 2016
Photo courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum