After months of wishing to go, we finally made a trip down to the V & A for the Shoes: Pleasure & Pain exhibition and we would highly recommend it. Exhibiting a huge range of shoes from history and different cultures, this exhibition explores in detail our obsession with shoes, their importance and the ways in which they can transform us. We found it utmost fascinating not to mention the fact that we desperately wanting to go shoe shopping afterwards.
From an early age on, we are taught about the significance of shoes with Cinderella’s fairy tale whereby her glass slippers not only transform her appearance but also her entire life, leading her to find true love. These glass slippers are one of the first pairs of shoes we see when we enter the exhibition and are displayed alongside a diverse range which signify the key themes of the show: Transformation, status and seduction.
From historic shoes dating back to the 16th century to contemporary designs from the most elite designers including Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and Prada, this exhibition really does provide a wonderful sight for our eyes. It was fascinating to see such a large range from Vivienne Westwood’s Blue Platform shoes, which Naomi Campbell once infamously fell over in to the outrageous collaboration between Film director David Lynch and Christian Louboutin. These shoes were entitled ‘Sexy Soles’ and explore fetishism to the extreme. An art form in their own right, these shoes featured a towering height making the shoes un wearable and a Perspex sole making the bottom of the foot visible.
Aside from this it was really very interesting to see how different cultures throughout history interpreted shoes and their purpose. For example high-class Japanese prostitutes (orion) during the 19th century wore shoes 20cm high so that they walked slowly to allow the crowd to admire their beauty and the luxurious garments, which they wore.
The exhibition also explored shoes worn by iconic figures such as ‘The Hollywood Mule’ worn my Marilyn Monroe as well as shoes worn by Queen Victoria, Princess Diana and Sarah Jessica Parker. Sarah Jessica Parker's role as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City is what made Manolo Blahnik a household name, transforming him into the ultimate fairy tale shoe maker and boosting sales. To own a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes is now a very aspirational choice as it reflects the glamorous and luxurious lifestyle of Carrie Bradshaw.
Last but not least we were taken through the shoe making process and the way in which they have been manufactured and consumed over the years. We were also shown the future of shoe design with innovative designs produced by 3D printing.