Shoes: Pleasure & Pain

The V&A museum is currently showing the anticipated exhibition ‘Pleasure & Pain’ – to my delight its all about shoes! I visited the exhibition last week so thought I would share with you my findings and of course some of my favourite shoes. IMG_4455

The exhibition looks at the extremes of footwear from around the globe, presenting around 200 pairs of shoes ranging from a sandal decorated in pure gold leaf originating from ancient Egypt to the most elaborate designs by contemporary makers. It considers the cultural significance and transformative capacity of shoes and examines the latest developments in footwear technology creating the possibility of ever higher heels and dramatic shapes. Examples from famous shoe wearers and collectors are shown alongside a dazzling range of historic shoes, many of which have not been displayed before.

2015HP8624One of the first shoes I came across was the famous Cinderella Shoe ‘The Glass Slipper’. Made entirely of Swarovski Crystal this is a true masterpiece.


For years, Roger Vivier has been one of my all time favourite shoe designers. His work is truly exquisite and it just so happens that my favourite deigns by Roger Vivier was in the exhibition! These pink evening shoes, designed for the house of Christian Dior are made with beaded silk and leather, dating back to the 1950’s. There was also another pair of Roger Vivier, a similar style for Christian Dior but with a brighter pink & gold design.

“Fairytales teach us the power of shoes. In these stories, magical footwear allows the wearer to become who they really want to be. The idea that shoes can transform our lives is embedded in our appreciation of them. Though we may not always know why, we all love shoes” – one of my favourite quotes from the exhibition.

rogervivier‘Shoes for the Bride’ – An Indian tradition is to gift the bride with silver objects – these shoes, from the 1800’s would have been given to a bride and were designed to give the bride height and stand out in the crowd. Known as ‘toe-knob sandals’ or ‘paduka’ this type of shoe would have been passed through generations of brides as an heirloom.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 15.50.07shoesforthebrideThese Prada shoes, famously worn by Kylie Minogue are from the 2012 Spring Collection. Taking influence from 1950’s cars, these Italian shoes hold quirky modernity and fit in with Prada’s eclectic aesthetic. Although very different from my personal style and taste, I adore the way Prada translate there inspirations into shoes.

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“Excessive and expensive decoration on shoes, opulent materials and bold colours have long been associated with high social status. Fur and feathers, and luxurious embroidery in gold, beads and even precious stones, draw attention to the feet, making the wearer stand out in a crowd.” – quote from the exhibition. Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 12.22.25Shoes from the 1750’s made with silk satin and silver lace braid – a real show stopper. Unfortunately I did not manage to get my own photograph of these shoes in the exhibition but they certainly stick in my mind. With diamond & sapphire buckles, these shoes represent opulence and how dress so significantly portrayed social status in this period. pompadour

From around the same period as the previous shoes, these ‘Pompadour’ shoes were owned by Madame de Pompadour – the mistress of King Louis XV. So precariously high, these french shoe were designed to make the foot look petite but as you can probably see, they were rather tricky to walk in. This is great example of ‘Pleasure & Pain’! flipflopI have always taken inspiration from Japanese cultures and art so when I saw these shoes my eyes were instantly drawn closer. The detail of these shoes is so ornate and textural, something I always try and incorporate into my designs. Like many other shoes from the exhibition, these would have been worn to represent social status. They are literally elevating.

Even if you are not a great lover of shoes like myself, this exhibition is well worth a visit. It is a peek into the complex world of shoes, something we all wear every day. The exhibition is on until 31st January 2016 so there is plenty of time to go an see it for yourself. I left feeling very inspired and certain that I really do have the best job in the world!

Freya x