One front row ticket please for the Symphony....of Shoes!
Recently, we had the pleasure of visiting Italy- mainly Rome and Florence for a Spring vacation and if anyone knows anything about luxury fashion next to the French- its the Italians.
While I had visited once before in 2019 in celebration of my eldest sister's 45th birthday, what made this trip even more beautiful was finally seeing the sights with my beau.
So, I was ever grateful when a few weeks after returning, several friends and clients reached out to inform me of the Italian Shoe Symphony Exhibition being hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute of Abu Dhabi.
Located in the city and for the consideration of those interested- the Institute is positioned between the British and German Councils (Al Bateen area).
In honor of my recent Rome excursion, I wanted to share a bit of my exhibition experience with you (I know I know- I still owe you an Italian trip recap but as always I am fashionably late). Just know when I do- I'll be giving you the drop on all the incredible Italian vintage shops.
First up- the Cultural Institute is an immaculate building of course. It has a gorgeous courtyard that connects it to the aforementioned councils but can be a bit difficult to find (if you know you know).
Nevertheless- the collection was awesome and showcased all of the well known brands from Ferragamo to Versace and even some new-comers like a 2015 Walter De Silva which is where I want to begin.
Influenced by the automotive industry- De Silva utilizes aerodynamics to ensure even distribution from the heel to pressure points in the foot for those femme fatales who fancy even the fiercest of stilettos.
Then, there was this incredibly ornate shoe from Alfredo Pifieri. The sculpture and detail on this shoe was so ostentatious. But the most astounding quality was that it was 100% vegan. Also can you believe the top part is removable and can be worn as a separate anklet? Let's not forget the comma shaped heel and fully stoned ankle cuff and shoe. Talk about creative.
Next was Diego Dolcini. With a resume of working with everyone from Ferre to D&G to Gucci, Zegna and even Balmain and the list goes on. He even had a stint with Austin's own Tom Ford (sorry Gucci the guy was ours before he was yours- you're welcome).
But back to Dolcini. This architecture grad utilized those skills to create a "framework made of open triangles and semicircles that serves as heels and plateau in a bold a futuristic homage to the eternal feminine"- according to Italian Cultural Institute. But this shoe is also a prime example of the trickle down theory, as I saw so many fast fashion brands knocking off this style years back when it first dropped.
And can we get into this black panther thigh high boot- I mean now that is art! Diego definitely goes there.
Another Dolcini dive was this over the top leather and feather plume pair. Historically, the "use of leather dates back to ancient times" as we all know but what I found interesting was that feathers are a "known erotic symbol that sees a woman as an animal- prey or predator" and Dolcini used them as a representative of the "ruling class" to evoke power and "eroticism", according to the ICI.
Speaking of- you can't mention maximalism without Moschino, who is always known to be so very extra and so this Baroque style bootie was no exception. In recent years- Creative Director Jeremy Scott pushed the style envelope of the brand into the beaming realm of shock and awe- similar to that of Jean Paul Gaultier in his 1990's days. Sadly, Scott recently stepped down to pursue his own brand and I am curious who can and will fill these creative couturier boots.
But we all know you can't press your lips together to speak on Italian design presence without saying PRADA. With another nod to the auto industry- the flame style spoke to both the femininity and force of fire created by Madame Miuccia Prada herself along side the detailed velvet allure of a second featured sculpted heel design.
Known for their sleek snake style silhouette that has captivated so many socialites and celebrities closets with the wrap around ankle heel is Rene Caovilla. The inspiration comes from a "snake shaped Roman bracelet from the I Century B.C. exhibited at the Archaeological Museum in Naples", ICI states.
Honorable Mentions of course to the gilded golden girls coming from Guiseppe Zanotti with the zig zag wedge heel and GCDS with a molded shark attack for ultimate effect.
But what I loved most about the exhibition is its tribute to the influence of fashion's past like the iconic Salvatore Ferragamo pump. Worn by Hollywood's elite and made even more famous by Marilyn Monroe this classic silhouette was one of the pioneers of the closed toe high heeled pump style. And Monroe's influence was so strong that they "had a heel patented for her- half wood and half steel".
She was known to buy them by the dozens and even had friends bring back pairs from Italy. She also exclusively wore them on set which caused women everywhere especially in America to want to get their hands on or in this case their feet in a pair of famous Ferragamos. This was true pre-social media influencing at its finest.
And then finally with a fantasy nod to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz were these ultra multicolored wedge sandals from Ferragamo circa 1938. If you know me then you know The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies of all time so I practically melted when I saw these.
Made from cork they were gifted to Judy Garland and were a definite departure from Ferragamo's often deemed demure and sophisticated style. I just love how fun they are and definitely different from anything you would have seen in the 1930's.
A little ironic fashion trivia- Ferragamo designed a pair of crystal ruby red Swarovski slipper pumps for Marilyn Monroe (now called the Marilyn's by the fashion house) but was not the designer behind the original famous slippers worn by Judy Garland. Those slippers were designed by MGM costume designer Gilbert Adrian and are covered in sequins that can now be found on display in the Smithsonian. Personally- I am more fond of the Ferragamo style myself which are still being sold today for the sale price of 660 Euros (originally 2200).
While there were countless other collectible styles shown by Casadei to Versace and even Paciotti and Pucci, I was surprised to not see a pair from Fendi or Gucci. However the styles above are the ones that truly caught and kept my attention. And while I wish the exhibition had run for longer than a few days- here's to hoping that there will be future ones focused not only on footwear but the overarching influence of fashion from other regions as well.
From auto to veganism to architecture and film, I often tell people that fashion is not only INFLUENCED but INFLUENCES so many other industries. I hope you enjoyed my exhibition recap and stay tuned for more adventures in Abu Dhabi and abroad.
Til next time!
P.S. For video footage of the exhibition you have to check out my IG STORIES later. If you're not following me on IG you're only getting half the fun!