The exhibition looks at footwear from every angle ranging from how shoes have been made through history to some of the world's most famous collectors and collections.
Sixteenth-century chopines, that raised the wearer above the muddy streets, are on show, together with the work of over 60 prominent designers, including Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin and Prada.
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain is curated by V&A curator Helen Persson. Speaking recently, Persson, said: “Shoes are one of the most telling aspects of dress. Beautiful, sculptural objects, they are also powerful indicators of gender, status, identity, taste and even sexual preference. Our choice in shoes can help project an image of who we want to be.”
The V&A expresses its thanks to Clarks, Agent Provocateur, and the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, without whose support exhibitions like this would not be possible.
If You think Your Shoes are Extravagant...
If you think you've bought some extravagant foot gear, consider this: the exhibition features a fabulous pair of English shoes, dating from 1750, decorated with jewels that originally adorned the Russian crown jewels. Also on show are 'Pigalle' pumps by French designer Christian Louboutin and 'Tendola' sandals by Spanish designer Manolo Blahnik.
Many of Blahnik's designs are colourful and organic, reflecting a fascination with nature and botany. His love of nature began during his childhood in the Canary Islands. He delighted in creating tiny shoes from sweet wrappers to fit the feet of the little lizards commonly seen on the islands.
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain - Layout of the Exhibition
The show, which has taken two years to plan, opens with a highly informative touch-screen timeline. The exhibition is set out thematically over two floors. On the lower floor we see:
- Transformation – in this section we see interpretations of the Cinderella story from around the world. The display looks at the idea of footwear as being empowering. We all know the child who has to have a specific trainer which will instantly improve his street cred!
- Status – here we see how shoes, many of which are totally impractical, can change the way the wearer moves and even how he/she feels. Historically, footwear fashions originated from the royal courts of Europe, but today it's the fashion designers who set the trends.
- Seduction – The items shown in this section are an expression of sexual empowerment. The display features Japanese geta and tight-laced leather boots as well as saucy examples of erotic footwear.
The display includes lasts made by Hobbs & Lewis specifically for Queen Mary's shoes together with lasts made for celebrities such as Peter Ustinov and Dita Von Teese.
We see how traditional skills and innovations in technology combine to bring together functionality and style and how makers are continually challenged to create even higher heels and more outrageous designs.
A fascinating display examines the use of new materials and shapes featuring examples of footwear that only the brave might care to try.
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain is a ticketed exhibition at the V&A Museum, open until 31st January 2016. Tickets and further information are available from the V&A
Cromwell Road, London, UK