Shoe fanatics have definitely heard it by now, but there’s a new exhibition in town! And it’s all about shoes – the most bizarre, the most expensive, the most extreme and the most painful. Since Heelosophy is currently present in London, we found visiting the exhibition to be our duty, to say the least. What we found at ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’ well exceeded the expectations.
You can find different themes at the exhibition, covering the well-known classics from The Glass Slippers by Charles Perrault to Super Elevated Gillies by Vivienne Westwood – shoes that made Naomi Campbell fall. Add to it the parade of every cult designer known from the ‘Sex and the City’ series and you have a spectacular lineup of the most desirable shoes in the world.
There is also plenty of history to dig into. Japanese Geta shoes and bath clogs from the Ottoman Empire might look like an enormous challenge to walk in, but nothing could prepare us for seeing shoes for bound feet, a tradition that was well spread among the wealthy Chinese as recently as only a century ago. These shoes are just incredibly, unbelievably tiny!
According to Wikipedia the best measure for ladies’ feet was considered to be at around 4 inches or 10 cm. In today’s standard shoe size of 2.5 times more, one cannot help but feeling a bit like Gulliver on his voyage to Lilliput. After successfully passing the denial stage of disbelief, the takeaway from this part of the exhibition is that walking in comfort or, more specifically – walking per se, has never been as highly appreciated as it is nowadays.
But our biggest attention belonged to shoes with an interesting structural design – and there was plenty to choose from. For starters, if you are not into heels, you could easily skip them as does Japanese designer Noritaka Tatehana or Peppino Vasso before him. You’ll still get the elevation, though – so it’s a win-win, right?
Next essential (or so we believed) part of the shoe that you can skip, according to many designers, is the sole. Now we would not suggest it to keep your feet well supported, but it’s still fascinating to see a completely new approach towards the core of the shoe as done by Andre Perugia earlier in the 20th century or by Julian Hakes just recently.
If these sound too boring to you, one can also opt for losing the purpose completely. Shoes are made for walking? How banal! You could also design shoes nobody can walk with, but need to kneel. Louboutin and his famous Sous Le Pied for a David Lynch movie were definitely among the least practical on the exhibition. Then again – as seen from the history paragraph above, shoes have always been more about the show than of purpose. So be it.
The extremes did not stop there. Shoes with real bird wings, party heels for men and 3D printed novelties can all be found at the exhibition. Take your water bottle with you (because shoes are hot, or maybe the air conditioning wasn’t working the other day) and spend a unique afternoon at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. While being there, you might also want to take a look at the ‘What is Luxury?’ exhibition that boasts some more extremes from other areas of life.
‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’ is open until 31 January, 2016.