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Pleasure and Pain

Johnny 2018-04-11 10:54

Englishman Charles Frederick Worth established the high fashion house of Worth in Paris, France, in 1858. It was one of the foremost fashion houses of its time, and arguably marked the beginning of the modern fashion industry. In the following 200 years, the fashion industry went through drastic changes from the independent woman as promoted by Chanel, to the shoulder slope emphasised by Armani, things changed endlessly. But after all the changes, most fashion critics still regard that, fashion, is always closely knitted with the experience, background and society of human beings. Fashion design in the broader sense, is to tell its hidden story in one way or another.


Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, currently on show, is one of the most ambitious endeavours to tell the stories between the wearer and their shoes. The exhibition is sectioned in different themes, with more than 140 pairs of shoes from all over the world, to tell the evolution of shoes in different cultures, situations, and historical backgrounds, as well as people’s changing attitudes toward them throughout time. The most ancient exhibit is a pair of black leather shoes from Britain that is said to be made in 1370. The most recent pairs exhibited were born in 2015, including the high heel series by Christian Louboutin and the Cunningham White Trainers by Marc Hare.


The exhibition has five themed sectors in total. The first section is named “Power of Change”, exploring how shoes change the identication of individuals. The prologue tells varied interpretations toward Cinderella in different cultures and moves on to the myths and legends related to shoes, as well as introduces how the concepts of shoes are kept through folklore. Lastly the section discusses how modern designs change the life of shoe wearers.

Status and Symbol

The second section is themed “Symbol of Status”. It tells how certain shoes gradually became the symbol of social status, and presented the leisure lifestyle of the privileged classes with their impractical designs. How the shoes determine the walking pattern and the related visual and acoustic experience are also touched upon in this section.

Also in this section, four story lines are applied to convey the idea of the curator-attention. Attention is gained through diversied designs. Large quantities of expensive accessories, different textures, and bold colours have long represented high social status. On the other hand, leather, feather, silk, beads, or even gems, also attract the public eyes to what people wear on their feet.


Secondly, the “walking pattern” also explores how shoes in history change the way people walk and their posture. The following “Upper Class” explains how the height of heels highlights social status: while the height also limits the movements of wearers as whether the design is pragmatic or not is often neglected. The clue of “Follow Me”, however, displays a series of trend-leading shoes. You should know that the British Royal Court once

led the trends with the distinctive shoes worn by its members. Those days are now mostly over - now the public only pays attention to celebrities or famous designers.


Interpreting the Creation

The third part is titled “The Temptation of Sexuality” and focuses on showing how shoes are combined with sensual elements
to express desires. The shoes represent the outflow of pleasure. Just like feet, shoes could also be the object of obsession. While the high heel getas and tight boots are exhibited along with a series of erotically implied objects of design.

The fourth section is named “Creation of Creativity”. Here the shoe designs, sculpting, and manufacturing processes are shown. In order to meet the trends and customer tastes, designers face the challenge in extreme designs and structures. Creativity is given full play to give birth to creations.

The fifth and last section “Object of Obsession” argues that “shoes could both be ordinary merchandise and collections.” No matter if they are fans of certain brands, sport lovers, or supporters of high street collections, they don’t view shoes as something to invest in, but simply because shoes bring them joy – those joy could be the beautiful shapes of shoes, or the memories and associations that go with them.



Celebrities Celebrate

In the “Object of Obsession” section, Swire Properties, one of the exhibition sponsors, put 180 pairs of historic shoes on display. They are either designed by prestigious designers or once worn by celebrities.
For instance, the fashion idol Karen Mok’s 14 collections, David Beckham’s Adidas football boots, Kylie Minogue’s two pairs, Queen Elizabeth’s shoes and Elton John’s shoes, even the high heels supermodel Naomi Campbell was wearing when she took her famous tumble on the catwalk in 1993 are all on display.

Besides shoes, other side items are also exhibited. Shoe accessories, shoe covers, boot trees, shoe heels, sketches and paintings specially made for the exhibition are all displayed in the “Production of Creativity” section. The owners of the exhibits, unquestionably, are all celebrities; their ranks include Paul Newman, Charlie Chaplin, Dita von Tesse, and Princess Diana.

In terms of designers, many of the exhibits have prestigious births, including the big names in the fashion world - Salvatore Ferragamo, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Vivienne Westwood, Karl Lagerfeld, and Zaha Hadid.

Generally speaking, shoes are a universal language. They decorate the feet and show the wearers’ social status at the same time. Through the course of space, time and culture, shoes tell philosophical stories one after another.

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