Sunday, February 17, 2013

FIT's Shoe Obsession (and ours, too)

On February 7th, we braved the chilly weather to attend the press preview of Shoe Obsession at The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology, to the uninitiated), and it was well worth taking a little time off work.

Once inside the museum, we instantly warmed up and were raring to go. The number and variety of shoes on display are astounding, with way too many to catalogue all of them here. We're giving you a taste of the range of styles on display and a look at some of the designers themselves who attended and chatted with us. Since the exhibition is up until April 13, if you live in or near the city, we highly recommend that you check it out. AND, best of all, admission to The Museum at FIT is free!

We were interviewed briefly by Delia von Neushatz of New York Social Diary. Click on the name of the blog or on to check us out -- and Delia's extremely well-researched article. She delves into the history of the chopines worn by Venetian courtesans and patrician women alike from 1400 to 1700.  The higher the shoe's platform, the more elevated the social status of the wearer.

Kemberly Richardson from WABC-TV in NYC also covered the show. For her wonderful coverage and video, click here or go to:

We loved these highly architectural shoes.  Look carefully to see the threads like harp strings or suspension cables on bridges.

This was one of Valerie's favorites.

These shoes are wonderful, but the practical person hidden deep in our core is whispering: "One of those wires will catch on something not five minutes after you put it on, and you'll go flying in front of a million people."

This cantilevered creation, with embellished straps and heel, is quite architectural.

This wondrous shoe, Janina Alleyne's Exoskeleton, looks as though it was put together from bleached dragon bones.

Another pair of Alleyne's shoes by the same name looked slightly different but were equally other-worldly.

Christian Louboutin's ballet shoe with heel.  Sorry for the reflections in the photo, but we couldn't not show you this.

The Louboutin stiletto ballet shoe was reproduced on the stairwell wall at FIT.  Jean got into the act.

She threatened to really get into the act!

At the Issey Miyake Pleats Please book launch party, we showed you a dress with gun patterns.  Here's the right shoe to wear with it.

The message here is that no high heel is ever high enough.

Like many of the pieces we saw, this shoe is more an objet - a mysterious fetish or a mixed media sculpture - than a shoe.  The wood is very dense, exactingly cut and lovingly polished; the leather is lush and painstakingly crafted.

The Japanophile in Valerie is betting that Mr. Kushino, the shoe's designer, based the shoe's shape on the jizai kagi (below).  The jizai kagi was a huge wooden hook, hung from the rafters of old farmhouses over the hearth in the center of the home.  From the crook in the center of the jizai kagi a huge cauldron for cooking family meals was hung.  The one pictured here is over a foot tall and probably close to six inches deep.

While all these shoes filled us variously with delight and wonder, the other side of the coin is that most of them are not wearable, and a number of them were never meant to be wearable, so are they really fashion? We both made a point of wearing flat shoes, hoping to elicit a response from the designers present at the press preview. We asked for a comment on flats from one of the designers, who diplomatically non-answered our question.

This remarkable shoe, festooned with miles of metal ribbon, is another one you'll have to be careful not to catch in anything.  (At the very least, you'd ruin the design.)  Some of these shoes, however, were likely intended to travel no further than the bedroom.  So if you caught this one on anything, you'd probably fall on the bed.  Mission accomplished!

A pair of these Prada shoes with the wonderful flower-petal heels were included in last summer's Schiaparelli-Prada show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute.

Nicholas Kirkwood's homage to Keith Haring reminded us of the Brooklyn Museum's 2012 Haring show.

This 2012 creation by Marieka Ratsma and Kostika Spaho, created using 3D modeling, is called Biomimicry.

Italian shoe designer Charline De Luca trained as an architect before turning her hand at shoe design.

Visible behind Charline De Luca's silver platform booties are Valerie's Korean-designed black and white lace-up shoes which turn up at the toes.

Included among shoes that were designed for retail sale was this wonderful theatrical sandal, mounted on the backs of two crouching figures. The golden gladiator sandal was designed by Rupert Sanderson for the Royal Opera of London's performance of Verdi's Aida.

Both of these shoes are the work of Japanese designer Noritaka Tatehana. The black number on the left is aptly named Unicorn Thorn.

Some of the vitrines in the exhibition were dedicated to shoes from specific donors. This particular shoe by Alexander McQueen belongs to Daphne Guinness and was on display last year at FIT's Daphne Guinness show. We can't get enough of it.

Both of us elected these as our faves, partly because of the stately height they add to the wearer, partly because of their resemblance to the chopines of old - like 16th century old - but also because they are one of the few shoes in the exhibition not on a vertiginous - and painful - incline.

Kiss me, Charlotte is the name of this shoe by designer Charlotte Olympia.

This wonderful glass slipper is by Maison Martin Margiella.

Jean's toe-dancing training created some muscle-memory response to the shoes which drew her like a magnet!  Noritaka Tatehana's pink toe shoes were made famous by none other than Lady Gaga!

Colleen Hill, FIT's Associate Curator of Accessories, stopped to chat with us during the press preview. Here she is with Valerie.

Dr. Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at FIT, designer Gianluca Tamburini (of the Conspiracy by Gianluca Tamburini label), and Colleen Hill chew the fact next to an exhibition of his shoes. To see his website, go to We had a long talk with him about the advanced technology required to make his shoes, which have screws and interchangeable parts. Despite their height, he said, they're very comfortable because they're designed to bear and distribute weight. Conspiracy shoes are manufactured in Modena, home of Ferrari, a high tech city.

Not wishing to play favorites, Dr. Steele changed shoes multiple times throughout the press event and again later that evening. Here, she is wearing a pair of black high-heels by the ballet shoe company Repetto.

Dr. Steele flashes a slim ankle and her Nicholas Kirkwood high-heels.

Flutterby is the name of this 2013 red shoe by Alberto Guardiani.

This is another one of Daphne Guinness's dizzyingly-high Alexander McQueen shoes.

Crystal Rose is the name of this 2011 design by Noritaka Tatehana.

Attendees of The Metropolitan Museum's Schiaparelli-Prada show will recognize this Prada wedge-heeled sandal which incorporates the tail light and fins of shiny exotic 1950's automobiles. It was also reproduced as the show's iconic souvenir.

Another of Noritaka Tatehana's creations.

This candy red shoe by Christian Louboutin is called Pigalle.

On a later field trip to Saks (the exhibition's sponsor) to check out the Gianluca Tamburini's Conspiracy line, we saw this Louboutin on the first floor and again up in the shoe department. It is a knockout.

This shoe seems to recall the Netherlands at the height of its trading and shipping boom, when all was carved wood and blue and white porcelain.

Talk about obsession!  How many hours went into getting this design just right?!

Color!  Spring!

We liked this lighthearted shoe centered around a scribble of a rose, but worked with craftsmanship.

When we arrived at the event, we met japanese shoe designer Masaya Kushino in the lobby. He was a great sport and let us get up close and personal with his amazing creations.

Here is a closeup of the shoes Valerie and the designer are holding. They look like rams' horns.

Masaya Kushino is the mad scientist of the shoe world. If we were to ever film a dream sequence, this shoe might be just the ticket!

Love the reflection of Jean's black-nailed fingers shooting the photo of this Kushino shoe.

Cerebral and industrial -- Masaya Kushino designs.  When we asked for a pair of flat shoes, this wasn't quite what we had in mind.

Another Kushino design that looks like something out of Road Warrior.

This is also a Kushino-designed shoe.

The shadow cast on the wall behind Kishino's vitrine was mesmerizing, like something out of an F.W. Murnau silent film.

We know this is just the first of many tours of this exhibition over the next two months and look forward to our next visit.


  1. wow! i'd love to see this exhibition. the shoes are amazing.

  2. OMG - The SHOES!! The SHOES!!!! and the sadness that descends upon me when I realize there is no way I can get there to see this exhibit before it closes :(

  3. I loved visiting this exhibit too, and now there is a (small) companion boot exhibit in the gallery that is also fun!

    I have a non-shoe question, though: I love the blog and often admire Jean's coat in the pictures. I've been looking for a down coat in a fit-and-flare style for quite a while. Any recommendations on where/how to track down one of my own?

    1. My coat is by HIGH - High Casual Everyday Couture by Claire Campbell. Check out her website. The headquarters is in Rimini, Italy and the main store is in Stockholm, Sweden, but you can purchase items online. The website also features sales. We suggest shopping consignment stores and thrift shops too. It's late in the season, so it will be a challenge. Good luck!