Our obsession with shoes harks far back into the history of fashion. As an intimate extension of the wearer’s body, they not only attract and allure, but offer a glimpse into the world of an individual’s sexuality, social status, and aesthetic sensibility.
Shoe Obsession, the current exhibition on show at The Museum at FIT presents 150 unique, spectacular, conceptual and outrageous shoe styles of the twenty-first century—traversing boundaries, construction, and material and technological advancement.
On entering the gallery space, the darkness envelopes you, with only bare minimal lighting used to spotlight the individual glass vitrines displaying the exquisite, outlandish, and ethereal shoes. Displayed as singles, the shoes appear like rare, idolised art objects forever immortalised in their pristine glass pedestals.
Many of the shoes on display present a double-edged sword—spectacular and almighty in aesthetic, they also induce pain, in extreme cases mutilation, and lack any sense of practicality. High-heeled shoes, in particular, evoke and embody our complex feelings about sexuality, gender, and power. Interestingly, it is somewhat no different to the culture of foot binding during the Song dynasty in China where tiny feet were considered highly attractive and feminine.
But fashion, of course, does not limit itself to practicality. It is very much about beauty, expression, and exploring new materials and techniques. As an exhibition, Shoe Obsession portrays this excellently, covering a broad spectrum of styles, themes, and eras. Each glass cabinet showcases a miniature “collection” of shoes categorised by the work of one designer, or pieces from a single collector, or shoes that share a common theme or symbolism.
From the well-loved Manolo Blaniks to the seductive Christian Louboutins; Lady Gaga’s 12-inch platforms designed by Noritaka Tatehana to Chanel’s pistol heeled platforms; from Masaya Kushino’s dark”Wind Horse” and “Storm Horse” hoof-shoes, complete with flowing tails at the heels to Janina Alleyne’s “Exoskeleton” pumps created using 3D printing technology—Shoe Obsession shows us the fabulous opulence of the past, to the possibilities of the future, and most importantly—why shoes have such as strong impact in our lives and in representing who we are.
February 8 – April 13, 2013
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT)
Seventh Avenue at 27 Street, New York