pic 1© Collectie Modemuseum Hasselt

Shoe-aholics, take a deep breath: Rotterdam’s Kunsthal Museum is set to reveal the astonishing story of women’s shoe design from 1900 onwards from February 1 to May 11.

‘S.H.O.E.S’ which stands for ‘Sexy Heels Or Easy Sandals’ will exhibit more than 500 shoes – yes, 500! – created by celebrated designers such as André Perugia, Salvatore Ferragamo, Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin.

The shoes will be displayed as genuine, finely-fashioned objets d’art, celebrating everything from Victorian boots and seductive slippers to high heels and futuristic pieces. The unbelievable variety and inventiveness of so many shoe designs will be a delight for the eye for anyone with a passion for fashion.

Ellen Verbeek, 2008.©Ellen Verbeek

From Practical Design To Status Symbol

Over the years various decorative elements have made an appearance in the world of shoe fashion: the floating heel, open heel, platform shoes, ankle straps and bows, to name but a few. Designers have constantly experimented with form, materials, colour and comfort, and cross-fertilisation and retro-reference have been combined with new experimentation. The woman’s shoe has become increasingly elegant, and heel height has reached as much as 15cm, and new technologies and materials such as micro-fibre, elastic and synthetics have made extreme forms, sometimes highly erotically-charged, possible.

André Perugia, Escarpin 1937, collectie PERUGIA, beeld.© Agnès Bastioni

The rise of the ‘couturier’ fashion houses and their designers have taken the woman’s shoe from attractive accessory to ultimate status symbol. Just as Sex and the City actress Sarah Jessica Parker swears by her Manolo Blahniks, many women long for new shoes as for new love.

Jewels From Renowned Collections

Numerous star pieces from celebrated collections will be on display in the S.H.O.E.S. exhibition, such as Perugia’s surrealist 1931 ‘Homage to Braque design from the International Footwear Museum in Romans-sur-Isère, as well as the first platform-sole sandal that Ferragamo designed in 1938 for Judy Garland. Naturally, there is also place for Roger Vivier, who invented the stiletto in 1954.

René van den Berg en Karin Janssen, Bits & Pieces, 2012.© A SHOE CAN BE

Many splendid homegrown designs will also take centre stage, such as the 1960 transparent plastic pump by Beth & Herbert Levine from the Fashion Museum Hasselt collection, and the 1985 colourful stiletto by Charles Jourdan from the Dutch Leather and Shoe Museum in Waalwijk. These grand-masters of shoe design will be featured alongside The Netherlands’ own Jan Jansen’s creations.

Some well-known contemporary Dutch and Belgian designers will also be broadly represented in S.H.O.E.S., including Rem D Koolhaas, Jan Taminiau and rising talents Katrien Herdewijn and Nienke van Dee – winner of the Global Footwear Design Award 2013.