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FIT’s Shoe Obsession: The Right to Shoes

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Not into fashion? You don’t need to be to appreciate the sheer artistry behind the shoes on display at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in its current special exhibition, Shoe Obsession. Of course, an interest in shoe trends of the 21st century doesn’t hurt, and if you so happen to have one, you could be in very real danger of passing out from sheer joy at the mere sight of all those shoes.


The show successfully incorporates all the major shoe designers one can think of, from Manolo Blahnik to Nicholas Kirkwood, and everyone in between. Entering the dimly-lit gallery space, I encountered only three cases of shoes. Thinking their contents comprised the entire exhibit, I was actually quite intrigued. Heel-less, hair adorned, black-themed designs by Masaya Kushino and Kei Kagami displayed in one case complemented the sculptural white-themed designs by Janina Alleyne and Tea Petrovic in another. While envisioning my feet in one of Alleyne’s skeletal shoes, I noticed the doors beyond the third case. Walking through, I was greeted by an overwhelming number of shoes in a massive, high-ceilinged space with a whole wall dedicated to descriptions summarizing the style of each designer on display. Entire cases are dedicated to shoes by Christian Louboutin, described as “unapologetically sexy” and “instantly recognizable,” and Noritaka Tatehana, described as “gravity-defying creations” and “some of the most extreme shoes of the 21st century.” An entire case full of Kirkwood shoes, described as having “edgy, imaginative designs,” includes shoes the designer produced in collaboration with artist, Keith Haring. Cases of personal shoe collections compose the center row of cases. I marveled at real women owning shoes so extravagant.

Other designer creations on display include: the “effortlessly cool, quirky aesthetics” of Prada, the “audaciously sexy designs” of Versace, the “classic shapes with modern, unexpected twists” of Yves Saint Laurent, the “tough chic aesthetic” of Givenchy, and the “sleek, curving lines” of Azzedine Alaia. The elegance of Nina Ricci, the seduction of Tom Ford, the delicate and feminine quality of Dior, and the imagination of Alexander McQueen further contributed to a truly phenomenal display of talent and creativity.

To accompany the Shoe Obsession exhibit, the Museum at FIT is also exhibiting Boots: The Height of Fashion. Divided into three sections, Sex, Rebellion, and Status, the show exhibits shoes that reveal the evolution of the boot and its many functions throughout fashion history. A boot by Nicholas Kirkwood for Rodarte from 2009, which looks like a “straight jacket for [the] leg,” and an old-school “seductive” and “daring” boot by Jack Jacobs Ltd from 1900 are two very different examples of boots on display in the ‘Sex’ section meant to “make a distinctive statement about the display of female sexuality.” The ‘Rebellion’ section displays boots that were worn to “challenge mainstream fashion” and includes Bell Brand Galoshes from 1922, worn by flappers, and Anello and Davide boots from 1963 worn by “Baby” Jane Holzer, the androgynous design of which is “now emblematic of ‘Swinging London’ fashion.” 1969 Equestrian style Gucci boots and red furry boots made by Manolo Blahnik for Ruffo in 1997 are only a couple of boots on display in the ‘Status’ section, which explores how “public esteem of the designer” can often “elevate a boot from all the rest.”

Don’t skip a visit to the Museum at FIT to check out Shoe Obsession on view through April 13 and Boots: The Height of Fashion on view through April 6. Both shows are a feast for the eyes and with FREE admission, you can hardly go wrong!

FIT Museum, 7th Ave at 27th st,, Tuesday through Friday, Noon – 8pm, and Saturday, 10am – 5pm.
-Renny Grinshpan

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