SHOES: PLEA­SURE & PAIN: A sneak peek into Vic­to­ria & Al­bert Mu­seum’s most re­cent shoe ex­hi­bi­tion

U Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Sabina Em­rit

A sneak peek into Vic­to­ria & Al­bert Mu­seum’s most re­cent shoe ex­hi­bi­tion.

Iremember be­ing given a gift card for Har­rods and spend­ing the en­tire day look­ing for one spe­cial item I could get with my gift card. I wanted to make a good in­vest­ment by buy­ing a clas­sic, time­less piece. I tried the Mul­berry Bayswa­ter in ev­ery color, rings from Cartier, a belt at Her­mès and then spent my last hour on the shoe floor. The sales as­sis­tant that had been with me at Mul­berry came up to the shoe floor as I tried on blue and pur­ple Swarovski cov­ered Giuseppe Zan­ot­tis that sparkled like a mid­night sky. We then walked round to Chris­tian Louboutin, where I tried on a pair of stiletto ‘Loubouties’. I re­mem­ber gasp­ing as I saw the re­flec­tion in the mir­ror. The sales as­sis­tant whis­pered to me, “I should be en­cour­ag­ing you to buy the more ex­pen­sive item (the bag), but you your re­ac­tion when you tried on these shoes - you’re a shoe girl.” And she was right. I’ve tried to be a bag girl. I’ve tried to be an ac­ces­sories girl - but alas, I’m a shoe girl. My fa­ther al­ways en­cour­aged me to wear ‘ good shoes’. So when all of my friends were wear­ing the latest Nike train­ers, I was wear­ing a re­ally good pair of leather heels. I was the odd one out for it, but it was an un­der­stated ed­u­ca­tion, one that led me to a ca­reer in fash­ion, for my fa­ther al­ways taught me to be grounded – in the best pos­si­ble shoes. Even as an es­tab­lished stylist who has worked in the in­dus­try for sev­eral years, it never oc­curred to me just how im­pact­ful shoes have truly been in our history and cul­ture. One small board at the open­ing

Uof the Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum’s new­est ex­hi­bi­tion ‘Shoes: Plea­sure and Pain’ sum­ma­rized it per­fectly. “The most in­ter­na­tional shoe story, and per­haps the old­est, con­cerns the vir­tu­ous girl whose shoes el­e­vate her to a higher so­cial sta­tus: Cin­derella. The Cin­derella story teaches lit­tle girls the im­por­tance of shoes. They can trans­form not only a girl’s ap­pear­ance, but her en­tire life and help her find her true love.” I don’t know any­one that doesn’t know the Cin­derella story and I don’t know any­one that doesn’t get ex­cited over a pair of new shoes. From your first school shoes, to bal­le­rina pumps, tap shoes and your first heels – I think I can re­mem­ber the mo­ment I met a pair of shoes way more than some mem­o­ries. The V&A ex­hi­bi­tion opens as if you were in a shoe boudoir in Pi­galle, France. Vel­vet cur­tains, low lights and lux­ury are the dé­cor for the large glass cases that hold some of the most ex­quis­ite and fas­ci­nat­ing shoes you’ll ever see. The ex­hi­bi­tion takes you through the themes of Trans­for­ma­tion, Sta­tus, Se­duc­tion, Cre­ation and Ob­ses­sion. Some of the key high­lights in­clude the Roger Vivier de­signs for Chris­tian Dior. The shoes cre­ated in the 1950s and early 1960s were fash­ion items that only the wealth­i­est mem­bers of so­ci­ety could af­ford, thus mak­ing them an in­stant marker of the up­most in lux­ury. I was in­trigued to learn about the adorn­ment of shoes, even for men. In 1750, buck­les be­came a new shoe ac­ces­sory. Even shoe roses were cre­ated for men to help em­pha­sis the 17th cen­tury no­ble­man’s legs. No pain, no gain.

Shoes and se­duc­tion come hand in hand, or “foot in shoe” should I say. One of the most stand­out pair of shoes on dis­play in the ex­hi­bi­tion are a pair of Ceta (1800 – 1900) made for the high­est sta­tus pros­ti­tutes in Ja­pan, ‘Orian’ who wore these cre­ations when walk­ing the streets. Their heels were over 20 cm! To­day, when it comes to se­duc­tion and sen­su­al­ity, there are per­haps two iconic stand­out de­signs: Saint Lau­rent’s ‘Trib­ute san­dal’ (the mod­ern day strip­per heel) and Stu­art Weitz­man’s over-the-knee boots, ‘High­land’, worn by ev­ery sin­gle woman in the Kar­dashian/jen­ner fam­ily and tak­ing over fash­ion blogs and In­sta­gram ac­counts across the world. Tak­ing the art form a step fur­ther, Chris­tian Louboutin joined forces with renowned film di­rec­tor David Lynch on a col­lec­tion de­signed and made solely for the film ‘ Fetish’ (2007). The idea of the shoe is that it ‘dis­abled the wearer, forc­ing her to crawl.’ Mules for the boudoir be­came a trend, and by adding feath­ers - Agent Provo­ca­teur cre­ated a sig­na­ture style state­ment that will never go out of style. “Un­re­strained sex­u­al­ity per­haps be­cause they slip off.” I never re­al­ized what ex­actly cat­e­go­rizes sen­su­al­ity in footwear, but ev­ery­thing from corseted shoes, lace and laces have cer­tainly made their mark in history. The ex­hi­bi­tion holds over 250 pairs of shoes, a col­lec­tion so pre­cious and old that some items can’t be pho­tographed with flash light­ing. The ex­hi­bi­tion works through themes and eras high­light­ing some of the most in­flu­en­tial shoes across pop­u­lar cul­ture. From the fa­mous cat­walk shoes cre­ated by Vivi­enne West­wood, those pur­ple plat­forms that Naomi Camp­bell took a tum­ble in, to parts of Car­rie Brad­shaw’s shoe­drobe from Sex and The City. Again prov­ing the power of the shoe, Car­rie Brad­shaw com­bined with cos­tume de­signer Pa­tri­cia Field made mil­lions of women fall head over heels in love with de­signer shoes from Dior to Manolo Blah­nik. And last fall, Sarah Jes­sica Parker did what we’ve all been wait­ing for when she launched her very own shoe col­lec­tion. SJP was as dar­ing and bold on red car­pets as she was on set as Car­rie, and it made com­plete sense. The sec­ond floor of the ex­hi­bi­tion is laid out like a lab and fo­cuses on the crafts­man­ship of the shoe, from de­sign to molds to the dif­fer­ent leather swatches and col­ors they could be avail­able in. The V&A has brought the ex­hi­bi­tion as close to re­al­ity as one can imag­ine by a very spe­cial se­ries of glass cases that dis­play shoe col­lec­tions from var­i­ous col­lec­tors. If you’re in Lon­don, it’s one not to be missed. And it proves, just like in the fairy­tales, with the right pair of shoes, hap­pily ever af­ter re­ally can ex­ist.

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