Shoes: Pleasure and Pain at the V&A
As part of Clarks’ 190-year anniversary, the brand (supported by the bastion of luxurious sensuality, Agent Provocateur, and the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers) sponsors this exploration into the world of shoes at the V&A, from a variety of cultures and time periods. It highlights their importance in the development of culture and as expressions of personal style.
This multi-platform exhibition shows off historical and contemporary shoes, accompanied by photography and video installations. These demonstrate the crafting of shoes, the creative design process, and iconic images of shoes in popular culture. The exhibition is divided into three sections: Transformation looks at shoes in myth and legend and how they can provide a gateway to magical escapism; Status looks at the powerful statement shoes can make about the wealth and influence of the wearer; Seduction looks at the alluring nature of shoes – how they can create sexy silhouettes in the way they force the wearer to carry themselves, to the way feet can become fetishized in the right pair.
The exhibition focuses not only on the shoes, but the wearers and the creators. With details about how shoes have been tied to social movements such as the punk or fetish scenes, as well as their historical measure of status, we begin to gain an understanding of the power of footwear. They are a means of upholding social systems and, at times, deconstructing and rebelling against them entirely. While an emphasis is placed on the past, the future is also represented in techniques developing from new, innovative shoe designers and the potential of technologies such as 3D printing.
Certain collectors have also lent part of their collections to the exhibition, which shows how one can find beauty in a diverse array of shoes, from trainers, to high street, to bespoke pieces. There’s also a look at the construction of shoes, whether mass-produced or designed to fit an individual. The more we understand about the creation of shoes, the more we can appreciate their value – we are shown how something as theoretically simple as choosing a pair of shoes may have a global and ethical impact. This exhibition is a must-see for anyone with an interest in shoes, with some of the most iconic pieces from world-famous designers. Yet it is also a learning experience and a fascinating insight into the art of shoes, beyond their functionality.
Photos: Erol Birsen
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain is at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 13th July 2015 until 31st January 2016, for further information visit here.