V & A Pleasure & Pain Exhibition



I was only saying the other day that it has been a long time since I 1. last won something and 2. went to a fashion event, so I was totally bowled over when I was fortunate enough to win tickets to the Pleasure & Pain Exhibition at the world famous Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London.


The V & A

Competition entry was pretty simple for a #FWIS aficionado like me, just tag @LFWEnd @V_and_A #vamShoes to an uploaded shoe selfie on Twitter. The Kennel and Schmenger shoes that bagged me the winning tickets were  blogged about here and are the best shoes that I have invested in for a while. 


The exhibition was sponsored by iconic British footwear retailer Clarks and curated by Helen Persson and is a shoe lovers dream with over 250 pairs of historic and modern footwear from across the globe from the last 2000 years. It was housed in the rotunda in the middle of the history of fashion section and so, after a quick hop on and off the Circle Line to South Kensington I made my first visit to the V & A for where history meets fashion.


Historically shoe trends were dictated by the European Royal Courts whereas today the styles are influenced by luxury shoe designers. Such is our fascination with luxury footwear that certain brands are commonly used as nouns – Louboutins, Jimmy Choos. Never one to shy away from a shopping trip and could happily spend my spare time (if I had any) dreaming of the Selfridges’ shoe hall, whilst mentally creating a shopping list for my fictional walk in shoe wardrobe I couldn’t wait to see the exhibition.


Now this is not just a homage to the current crop of designers, the exhibition spends a lot of effort revealing how impractical shoes have been over the ages, in particular in the Far East when they represented a privileged lifestyle. It also shows you design idea and examines shape and material, with some shoes showcasing how some styles dictate the way in which the wearer moves, how they are seen and even heard. It was very eye opening and included some excellent video exhibits.


The exhibition is showcased over two floors of the rotunda, examining three themes: transformation, status, and seduction. It looks at the myth and legend aspects of shoes in folklore, opening with different cultural interpretations of the Cinderella story, as well as how this feeds into contemporary marketing from everything from David Beckhams football boots to the sandals that Carrie Bradshaw loses in an episode of Sex and the City, complete with the video clip playing over and over when Big puts it back on her foot.


Highlights for me included Cinderella’s Swarovski glass slipper as well as Vivienne Westwood platforms (remember Naomi Campbell taking that terrible catwalk tumble). They were there in their awkward glory and I wondered how she managed to walk on them for as long as she did.


The seduction theme is probably the most striking, representing the concept of footwear as a representation of sexual empowerment and pleasure, featuring Christian Louboutin fetish shoes, which features high heels. There are number of shoes featured that have been worn by by high profile figures including a pair of courts owned by Marilyn Monroe, as well as Queen Victoria, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lady Gaga, and Kylie Minogue as well as pieces by designers including Alexander McQueen, Sophia Webster, Roger Vivier for Christian Dior, and Prada.


Finishing off the exhibition is a look at shoes as commodities and collectibles, with six different collection presented, from historic pieces to a high-end collector. A ‘sneaker head’ features AKA Adidas. And accompanying the exhibition include ‘in conversation’ talks with Sandra Choi, Jimmy Choo’s creative director and Manolo Blahnik, with the screen embedded in cardboard shoe boxes. Mind you don’t lean on the boxes!

Shoes: Pleasure & Pain at the V&A runs from June 13 to January 31, 2016.

@clarksshoes @LFWEnd @V_and_A


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