Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Footprint, the tracks of shoes in fashion

Following the extremely succesful exhibition “Inspirations” by Dries Van Noten, another stunning expo opened last week at MoMu Antwerp. This time it’s not about fashionable clothes, but about shoes…. loads of shoes!

The exhibition, called FOOTPRINT, takes you on a journey through the history of shoes in fashion, showing all types of trends, as well as the masterpieces of the most important shoe designers of the 20th and 21st century.

However, it’s not an attempt to show the complete or chronological history of shoes, rather a display of “those fashion and shoe designers that used their skills and artistic vision to leave an imprint on the fashion image of their age”.¹

Many different themes and subthemes can be distinguished in the exhibition: Surrealism, Pop culture, Space age, Architecture, Baroque, Glamour, Fetish, Ballet, Ballroom dancing, Street dance, Hollywood, Mexico, Decadence, Nature, Folklore, Sabotage, Rebellion and Utopia. (The only subtheme I missed was Argentinian Tango shoes, but that’s probably because I’m such a big fan!)

Besides showing all these different themes, the curators want to guide you through the history of innovations in shoe design. One of the most innovative shoe designers was Salvatore Ferragamo, who actually held over 350 patents “some of which have been used and some of which are waiting to be used when the world becomes conscious of the beauty of the styles”.²

Dutch shoe designer Jan Jansen also invented many new shoe styles, but sadly enough he didn’t request any patents. As a result Jan Jansen filed a lawsuit against Prada in 2005, for copying his bamboo shoes created in 1973. Prada settled by the way. You’ll find Jansen’s original bamboo shoes in the Tribal section, in front of a very cool “Delftblue” tile composition. (How appropriate!)

The most (in)famous lawsuit in the shoe business, is without a doubt the one Christian Louboutin filed against Yves Saint Laurent for stealing his idea of using red soles. However, the Footprint exhibition in Antwerp shows that red soles are not an invention of Louboutin after all, or so it seems when you see the extremely decadent shoes by Parisian designer Hellstern… from the 1920’s! The predecessor of the current status symbol can be found in the Decadence section. I’m sure Louboutin lovers will be interested in seeing this piece of art!

Besides red soles, Footprint shows all kinds of heels: high, low, stillettos, slingbacks, wedges, platforms, heels made out of cork, in the form of a cone, comma, chunky, etcetera. Furthermore, there are clogs, functional work shoes, military boots, tribal shoes and… the most impractical shoes ever, only to be worn in the bedroom according to the curators!

Some of you might come to Footprint to see the works of specific shoe or fashion designers; well, you will not be disappointed, as almost every famous designer is present. To name just a few: Manolo Blahnik, Salvatore Ferragamo, Roger Vivier, Nicholas Kirkwood, Patrick Cox and André Perugia for Elsa Schiapparelli.

Being located in Antwerp, the exhibition includes of course many Flemmish designers, such as Dries Van Noten, Dirk Bikkenbergs, Ann Demeulemeester and Walter Van Beirendonck (all part of the famous “Antwerp Six”), AF Vandevorst and Maison Martin Margiela.

My favourite room in the exhibition is the one dedicated to Salvatore Ferragamo and to his famous customer Marilyn Monroe! To see Marilyn’s shoe last, next to Ferragamo’s sketches, the actual shoes and the movies in which she wore them (shown on various screens)… just took my breath away!

Younger shoelovers might be more intrigued by Lady Gaga and her favourite shoes from the last collection of Alexander McQueen, or the lasercuts shoes by Iris van Herpen, either way… Footprint holds something for every taste and age.

For more information please visit:

1. Source: Website MoMu.
2. Source: Shoemaker of Dreams. The Autobiography of Salvatore Ferragamo, London 1957, Italian edition 1971.

In the last photo you see the curators of the exhibition Geert Bruloot and Karen van Godtsenhoven, the scenographer Dodi Espinosa and museum director Kaat Debo.

Special thanks to Toerisme Vlaanderen (Tourist Office for Flanders) and MoMu.

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