As I ventured into town over the weekend I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit giddy. I was about to have a behind the scenes tour of the National Gallery of Victoria, but more specifically a behind the scenes tour and talk of their shoe collection.
The talk was a part of the VAMFF cultural program and although the festival is less than a month away it was the perfect prelude to it. Lead by our ever so knowledgeable host, senior fashion and textile curator, Katie Somerville, the points of discussion centred around the meaning and cultural significance of the shoe and why they are considered an important element within the realm of fashion and textiles.
Since the talk was slated for only an hour the shoes open for discussion was a small but carefully selected sample that the gallery has amassed over the decades. Some of the footwear presented I had seen before at previous exhibitions the NGV hosted over the years but others I had not, and felt very privileged to witness some amazing shoes that were not only so fragile, but so delicately constructed. It was a visual feast to say the least, and since I appreciate anything to do with the history of fashion this talk was right on point.
Joining Katie for this lively presentation was bespoke shoemaker Claire Best who also shared her insights into the design and creation of footwear. Here she shared her history as a shoemaker and presented some of her own shoe designs in various states so we could gain an appreciation of the process. This side of shoe making is something I know very well since my father was also in the shoe trade for over 50 years as both a designer and production manager for Footrest shoes here in Australia, when shoe manufacturing was certainly at its height and on a larger scale. But it was lovely to hear how passionate this young designer was going back to basics and making custom wears for her clients, one shoe at a time.
Below are a couple of images I was permitted to snap and hope that you, like me, appreciate these rare and beautiful creations. So on that note, all I can say is all hail the shoe!