I love a good pair of shoes, but they’re not really an obsession of mine (-vintage scarves, yes. Chanel lipstick, definitely. Shoes…not so much.) However every season without fail I have a new shoe to covet. For Autumn, it’s all about the Over-the-Knee boot, Spring is when I need my trainer fix and my Summer staple is always a studded suede boot, that I have no qualms getting trampled on during the 19.30 scramble to the main stage.
Whilst these recurring characters in my shoe life are always selected with love and lust, they don’t exactly put me in the same league as the red sole zealots out there. Thankfully you don’t have to be a shoe obsessive to enjoy the V&A’s latest exhibition- Shoes: Pleasure & Pain– which is not simply a journey through the history of shoes, but an insight into our affections for them.
The ground floor entrance to the exhibition which spans two floors – is very boudoir in its feel- unsurprising really, as the curators looked to experts of all things kinky- Agent Provocateur- to put their sexy stamp on its interior design; the result being a dimly lit and very intimate cavern of shoes. The exhibition first looks at the representation of footwear in folklore and fairytale – starting with Cinderella’s glass slippers and ending with a video clip of Dorothy and her iconic red glitter shoes.
The exhibition takes a quick turn towards shoes and seduction and tells the story of how stars such as Beyonce, helped legitimise the Stripper shoe as a mainstream commodity. It looks at the allure of the lace up boot and its equation to the corset – denoting notions of being tied and untied.
After a glimpse at Carrie’s infamous Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes, the exhibition turns to the social significance of wearing super high heels -that literally make you stand out from the crowd; juxtaposing this almost immediately with the relaxed ease of a trainer and noting how the likes of Run DMC, brought the sport shoe into the everyday.
Upstairs is where the technically curious are able to immerse themselves in the making- and future possibilities in the making, of shoes; as you are taken on a journey through the cobbler’s process, to the very modern 3D printed shoes, that we can one day expect to be consuming on a mass scale.
Up on the light and open aired first floor, you are invited to listen to the masters: Manolo Blahnik, Mr Hare and Christian Louboutin who all share their stories about what inspires them and the process they undertake as they conjure up their podiatric creations; Mr Blahnik’s derisory thoughts on moodboards being a hilarious highlight.
Whilst it’s not exactly Savage Beauty, the V&A‘s journey into the significance of shoes, left me inspired and informed- not just about the relationship we have with shoes and how they affect others’ opinions about us, but how they affect how we project ourselves to the world outside- much like with, say a vintage scarf, or Chanel lipstick.