LADY: The woman who lived in a shoe…

By Shannon Brien

Cinderella is proof that a new pair of shoes can change your life.

You can tell a lot about a person from what they have on their feet. They are an indicator of class, during the reign of Louis XIV, red heels signified that the wearer was part of his court much in the same way that Louboutins presently indicate that the wearer is part of an elite group.

But they don’t just reveal which circles you run with, they are also reflect your mood. Nothing says “I’m comfortable” more than a pair of trainers or “I’m practicle” more than a pair of Hush Puppies, and while they reflect how you’re feeling they also enhance your mood too.

The cherry of top of any outfit is a pair of heels. Not only do they make legs look much thinner and miles longer but they give aboost of height and confidence, making the wearer feel powerful and complete, after all ‘behind every successful woman is a fabulous pair of shoes’.

And if you think about all the successful women in world there’s not one ugly pair of shoes between them.

What was invented for practical purposes is now and identifiable statement and in many cases, a collectors item. Today they evoke a whole range of emotions and inspire designers to push the boundaries of shoe design.

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Olivier Dupon has long influenced the course of fashion and has published many books on the topic; including his latest Shoe: Contemporary Footwear by Inspiring Designers from Thames and Hudson. Featuring over 500 photographs of avant-garde shoes and designs, this book also includes profiles of leading and up-and-coming shoe designers who offer an insight into their process.

Following in the footsteps of her grandfather, and one of Poland’s most sought after shoemaker, Aga Pruss is striving to change perceptions on made-to-measure shoes. “I try to think about what would be a good solution for individual feet, and then I try to transfer that into a nice shape and ultimately take into account all of my client’s expectations” she says. She wants to revolutionise the shoe industry and  re-introduce her grandfather’s classic techniques that favoured quality, design, ingenuity and longevity.

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“My motto is that a beautiful shoe should be pure and classical in style, but above all well shaped. Shoes are like sculptures: every line, curve and angle matters. I strive to reconcile style with essential comfort, all the while adding a personal touch.”

Similarly, Laurence Dacade echoes Pruss’ love for quality shoe work, “…Diversity fuels me and, in a way, it’s what’s infused in my designs: dualities (feminine and masculine), a variety of supple  and hard materials (my favourites are kangaroo, calfskin and satin), and above all the preservation of luxury craftsmanship through multiple techniques.” She believes that it is her mission to create the perfect shoe, and comfort provides the foundation upon which, the perfect shoe is built. Shoemaking is a precise process and often it comes down to a question of millimetres, and Laurence likes to challenge the skilled traditional artisans she works with to utilise alternative techniques in order to achieve her goals.

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Shoes: Pleasure and Pain at the V&A presents footwear from around the globe from decorated sandals found in ancient Egypt to the most current contemporary designs, focusing on the significant developments in shoe manufacturing.

CIS:T.149-1974; CIS:T.149A-19742014HE2300Top: Evening shoe, beaded silk and leather, France, Roger Vivier (1907–98) for Christian Dior (1905–1957). 1958-60 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Directly above: Wedding toe-knob paduka, silver and gold over wood, India, 1800s

Although shoe making has changed, the initial design, sculpting and engineering process remain much the same, and ultimately the fact that shoes reflect society at the time has remained present since their invention.

9._Installation_view_of_Shoes_Pleasure_and_Pain_13_June_2015_-_31_January_2016_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London9._InvisibleNakedVersion_Andreia_Chaves_2011_Photo_by_Andrew_Bradley

Top: Installation view of Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, Christian Louboutin ‘Pigalle’ pump, 13 June 2015 – 31 January 2016, Victoria and Albert Museum
Directly above: ‘InvisibleNakedVersion, Andreia Chaves, 2011, Photo by Andrew Bradley
They say that if the shoe fits, wear it, which is comforting to know because shoes will always fit you, no matter how you change.