How the V&A designed its blockbuster shoes exhibition

We speak to in-house designer Line Lund to see how the V&A has designed its new exhibition exploring our “agony, euphoria and obsession” with shoes.

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The V&A will open the doors to a major exhibition exploring our relationship with shoes this weekend.

It has been designed in-house and led by Line Lund who has been working alongside a team of curators to bring the exhibition to bear.

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain will aim to show the “agony, euphoria and obsession” shoes can inspire, showcasing some 250 pairs of historic and contemporary shoes.

It will feature shoes worn by the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Queen Victoria, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lady Gaga and Kylie Minogue and items by designers such as Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo and Prada.

“A dark, sumptuous boudoir with a more crisp, clinical upstairs”

Visitors will enter on the lower of two floors, passing through long purple curtains where a mood film reveals three pairs of shoes being walked around the V&A.

This then gives way to what Lund describes as a “luxurious boudoir” organised around the themes of transformation, status and seduction.

Her brief was to “create a dark, sumptuous boudoir downstairs and a more crisp clinical upstairs, filled with light” within the central section of the Fashion Galleries.

Downstairs Lund says distinctive sections have been created with very different feels: “One is about bling so we’ve used mirrors to execute the goldenness of the shoes and another is about seduction so we’ve created a padded pink display with hanging leather straps.”

Seduction and status

The Seduction section focuses on whether shoes represent sexual empowerment or a passive source of pleasure.

The Status section looks at how impractical shoes have been worn by privileged classes with leisurely lifestyles and how these shoes dictate how the wearer moves, and how they are perceived.

A staircase leading to the next floor features projected animations to encourage visitors to move upstairs. All animation throughout the show has been created by Lightweight Media.

Passing in to the second phase of the show visitors will be greeted with a large neon sign displaying the title of the show before coming into a clean, light space.

Upstairs there is an interactive timeline and a film showing how shoes are conceived, designed and made. Further animations help tell this story.

The tallest heels and the most dramatic shapes

Meanwhile the displays show how traditional craft skills and modern technology are embraced in modern shoe making.

Plans, sketches and shoe lasts such as those created by H&M Rayne for Princess Diana are on show alongside ‘pullovers’ from Roger Vivier for Christian Dior.

This section also uncovers design and innovation challenges such as how to create the tallest heels and most dramatic shapes.

Later consumption and production is spotlighted, covering everything from 18th century “cheap shoe warehouse” to one off hand-made brogues and trainers made in China.

Finally shoes as commodities and collectibles are explored. Six separate collections are introduced from the high-end to the high-street, including the obsessions of one “sneaker-head”.

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Shoes: Pleasure and Pain runs from 13 June 2015 – 31 January 2016 at the V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

All images: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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