From functional to fashionable, show chronicles footwear designThose dainty heels ― if not the little bow at the ankle ―can easily become an object of desire. When Sarah Jessica Parker of “Sex And The City” cooed and sighed in longing for an exquisite pair of Manolo shoes, she spoke for all women who feel a craving for such shoes.
This passion for shoe designs can be historically chronicled, and artistically appreciated,at the exhibition “Walking Art,” currently on display at the Trade Center branch of Hyundai Department Store in southern Seoul. The exhibit offers by far the most comprehensive collection of footwear in Korea, totalling 143 varieties, some of which date back to prehistoric times in Egypt and Greece.
The brain behind the exhibit, organized by the Italian Embassy and Italian Cultural Institute in Korea, is Luciano Calosso, who curated the show for its international tour. It is also the first exhibition for new Italian Ambassador to Korea Massimo Andrea Leggeri, who presented his letter of credentials on Aug. 23. Mr. Leggeri was in charge of the G-8 Summit as deputy director general in the Ministry for Economic and Multilateral Cooperation in Rome for four-and-a-half years, before coming to Seoul last month.
Stressing the importance of combining culture, economics and politics in one event, he said the shoe exhibition held in a department store, instead of a museum, served a dual purpose, both cultural and commercial. “I’m happy with the success of the exhibition at Hyundai Department Store, which, I was told, is an important department store in Korea,” he said in his Hannam-dong office. “The exhibit aptly presents an Italian industry globally known for its creativity, quality and technique; such expertise is part of our heritage ― which is our nature,” he said, beaming.
He added, “The exhibit walked around the world a bit. It went to a few countries in Latin America before, but Korea is the first country in Asia.”
After Korea, the collection will travel to China, Tokyo and New Delhi, then on to Moscow and Washington.
All the shoes featured were contributed by two leading Italian companies, Rossimoda and Arditi. Arditi has manufactured costume footwear of all kinds for theaters, films and dramas since 1950. Rossimoda, established in 1942, currently designs, produces and distributes some of the finest footwear for luxury fashion houses, Christian Lacroix, Givenchy, Emilio Pucci, Loewe, Marc Jacobs, Kenzo, Donna Karan and Celine included.
The glass cabinets on the department store’s 10th floor display both old and new, as well as designs that have been repeated in history and novel shoes bordering on sculpture, such as one sandal (by Salvatore Scuotto of La Scarabattola, 2006) with the heel bearing an artistic relief carving of a demon.
Some of the oldest shoes in history are present, but those who are familiar with fashion can tell that those basic, strappy sandals, originally made simply to protect feet, were revived in the past few years to be worn with modern Grecian-style outfits.
As shoes evolved to become an integral wardrobe element for the rich and the famous, they began to show the personalities of their wearers: Imagine an awkward damsel in hideously chunky platform shoes that added one more foot to her stocky stature. How about an aristocratic French beauty with creamy skin in a pair of little green pumps for her matching green dress?
Viewers can see that the style of two decorative boots adorned with gold buckles from 1600 and 1760 is very trendy now, centuries later, as it seems obvious that Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana found and fell in love with the wardrobe archive of the fashionable couple Napoleon Bonaparte and his mistress, Josephine.
“Girl-women” around the world love Marc Jacob’s colorful foot candies, and comparing period shoes at the exhibit, they are a reinvention of feminine pumps and sandals circa the 1950s and ’60s. Classy wingtip oxford pumps by Bally, Hugo Boss and Celine are reminiscent of Cotton Club dancers in flapper dresses and their matching oxfords. Sophisticated ladylike heels, as seen on the Givenchy, Versace and Yves Saint Laurent catwalks for the new season, are 1940s fashion, with a modern twist.
The glamorous diva proportion for the colder season ahead can be simply described as an exclamation mark ― a look put together with an extra-lean body, defined shoulders and extremely chunky shoes at the bottom. Although they were modified for the fashionably correct silhouette, Christian Louboutin and Gucci’s vertiginously high and enormous platform heels, de rigeur at the moment, pay tribute to the funky disco diva a la the ’70s, like the pair of brown Mary-Janes (1972) owned by Arditi.
Even if both Italian shoemakers, Rossimoda and Arditi, aim to advertise their design prowess in the global fashion industry and promote super-trendy designers’ shoes for new seasons, and even knowing that this footwear is made for ultimate vanity, rather than comfort, how can you not fall madly in love with those sexy retro pumps and cool wedge heels?
by Ines Cho
The exhibition “Walking Art” at the Hyundai Department Store Trade Center in Samseong-dong in southern Seoul runs until Sept. 24. The exhibition moves to Hyundai Department Store in Mok-dong in western Seoul, running from Oct. 9 to 20. Both department stores are open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, but are closed Mondays. To get to the Trade Center department store, use the Samseong subway station, line No. 2, exit 5.
To get to the Mok-dong store, use Omokgyo subway station, line No. 5, exit 1. For detailed maps, visit the Web site, www.ehyundai.com.
For more information on the exhibit, contact the Italian Cultural Institute at (02) 796-0634.