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April 24 2014

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5 posts tagged "FIT"

FIT’s Foot Fetish

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What is it about women and shoes? According to Dr. Valerie Steele, the director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT and the author of Shoes: A Lexicon of Style (among many other fashion books), the fixation dates back to Cinderella and her glass slippers. But that doesn’t necessarily explain women’s willingness to defy death, gravity, and blisters with the super-stacked platforms and needle-thin spikes of modern day. Shoe Obsession, The Museum at FIT’s upcoming exhibition (which, running from February 8 through April 13, was curated by Dr. Steele, Colleen Hill, and Fred Dennis), explores the female shoe fetish via some of the most iconic, outrageous, and exceptional styles that have come out this century.

Including shoes from established houses (Christian Louboutin’s Pigalle stilettos, Roger Vivier’s feather Eyelash pumps, Prada’s flame shoes, and Chanel’s gun heels), up-and-coming talents (Nicholas Kirkwood’s graffitied Keith Haring platforms, Charlotte Olympia’s Kiss Me Dolores pumps), and experimental designers (Masaya Kushino’s sculptural human hair, Cyprus wood, and lace platforms; Noritaka Tatehana’s eighteen-inch ballerina shoes), Shoe Obsession presents every type of high heel you can imagine—and several that you can’t. Here, Dr. Steele talks to Style.com about the fascination with extravagant shoes, the evolution of contemporary footwear, and the upcoming exhibition.

Let’s cut to the chase. Why are so many women obsessed with shoes?

Well, I think there are a couple of layers. First off, shoes are an intimate extension of the physical body. And they seem to say a lot about our personality, our sexual attitudes, and our social status. And high heels in particular seem to be the focus of a lot of our thoughts about gender, sexuality, eroticism, and femininity. I think there’s definitely an element of sexual fetishism involved in men’s fascination with women’s high-heel shoes. But for women, I think it’s not fetishism so much as it is an obsession with fashion and with shoes as the ultimate sartorial symbol of erotic femininity.

Have women always been obsessed with shoes, or was there a point in fashion history when the infatuation really took off?

It goes way back to Cinderella. Shoes have played an important role in cultural thought for a long time. In Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?, a film from the sixties about French fashion, there’s a wonderful scene when a TV reporter is interviewing some pompous French sociology professor who says that the Cinderella story is all about the importance of tiny feet and beautiful shoes. Then he says, “So there you are: fetishism, mutilation, pain. Fashion in a nutshell.” [Laughs] But I do think that our show is unique, because we’re not just looking at the social and psychosexual reasons why we all love shoes. We’re focusing on the twenty-first century and calling attention to the fact that in the last twelve years or so, after the end of Sex and the City, the obsession with high-end designer shoes has spread from something that only a few people were really obsessed with to being something that everybody’s obsessed with.

Why have heels risen to such hilariously high heights in the past few decades? And what dictates heel height?

I think the key element there is the acceptance of hypersexual shoe design as part of fashion, as opposed to just a corner of the pornographic industry. Before he died, Helmut Newton said in an interview that in the seventies, you had to go to fetish and porn stores to get the kind of shoes he wanted for his fashion photographs. But by the early nineties, he could go to any high fashion designer—Chanel, Dior, they were all doing fetish-y shoes. So that’s one thing, which I think is crucial to the recent growth of heels. Another is the popularity of platforms on shoes. If you’ve got a two-inch platform, automatically your heel can go from three to five inches, or from four to six, or whatever you want.

What makes women willing to shell out so much money for a pair of shoes that they may or may not be able to walk in?

Part of it is that shoe shopping is probably the highest form of fashion shopping. It’s the most pleasurable. I mean, who doesn’t look good in a pair of beautiful shoes? And compare it with something like bathing-suit shopping, which is the nadir of horror. Also, you can get a lot more fashion bang for your buck with a pair of shoes. You know, it might be a thousand dollars, but if you’re going to buy a jacket or a dress by that same or a comparable designer, you’d be talking three, four thousand dollars or up. And right now, people are, in a way, dressing in more of a uniform. For instance, many people just wear a well-cut pair of jeans and a great black jacket. But with shoes, they can play and transform themselves—they can change the style image that they’re creating. Continue Reading “FIT’s Foot Fetish” »

DVF Talks China, Baby Clothes, And The Wrap Dress That Changed The World

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“The most important thing a young designer can do is offer a product that has value,” Diane von Furstenberg told a packed house of students and devout DVF fans last night at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where the CFDA president was holding a lecture in concurrence with the museum’s current exhibition Impact: Fifty Years of the CFDA. The show, which includes rare archival pieces spanning half a century, from a 1958 Traina-Norell dress and matching coat (gifted by Lauren Bacall) to an original DVF wrap ensemble, inspired von Furstenberg to recount her own career beginnings.

“In 1970, dresses were so stiff they would stand by themselves,” recalled the CFDA president. “I made these flimsy little jersey dresses that no one understood, but they were comfortable.”

As usual, Ms. von Furstenberg’s words were peppered with coveted tips on fashion industry survival. How to finance your start-up? Find a factory that believes in you. Don’t have a showroom? Sell online. “The Internet has changed everything,” said von Furstenberg. “Today it’s easier for an emerging designer because you have a universal audience the minute you start.” To that end, the CFDA’s latest venture, the China Exchange program, will help install American designers abroad and cultivate Chinese talent stateside. “I’m excited about anything that has to do with China,” von Furstenberg told Style.com. “It’s an old civilization that suddenly discovered this new world of luxury—the speed of the growth is fascinating.”

Before turning to business abroad, Ms. von Furstenberg will attend to matters at home—the grandmother of three just received news that she’s expecting a fourth grandchild. “I’m going to spend a fortune on that one,” admitted the designer, whose GapKids capsule collection hits stores later this month. When asked what she plans to gift the lucky newborn, she responded, “I haven’t bought anything yet; I’m very superstitious.”

Photo: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

Student Body-Con

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“You never know what you’re going to get,” Calvin Klein said last night at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s senior show. The FIT alum was playing fashion critic for the evening—something of a role reversal for the iconic designer—and was pleasantly surprised by some of the students. Not that he had experience in his collegiate days. “Back when I was a student, we didn’t have critics. I don’t know what we had!” Klein said with a laugh. Each critic offered advice throughout the program and named one exceptional student an award winner. Klein was full of compliments for his pick, Liudmila Urbina, who showcased a minimalist (naturally) black silk/wool-blend petal-hem coat paired over a simple white gazar cocktail dress (upper left). (Fellow judge Carolina Hererra picked the ladylike designs of Diana Donovan as her favorite.) Other highlights of the runway show—one that took a page from Burberry’s playbook and was shot and broadcast in 3-D—included a fringed mint-colored dress by Jane Carlton that recalled Giambattista Valli’s Spring 2010 collection, and a superbly executed leather men’s motorcycle jacket by Murphy Thiel (upper right), who took home the menswear prize.

Meanwhile, at Parsons, graduating students paraded their collections for a crowd that included William K. Fung and Vera Wang, the evening’s recipients of honorary awards. They weren’t the only winners. Niloufar Mozafari, who took last year’s Geoffrey Beene Design Scholarship and CFDA Scholarship, nabbed the prize for womenswear designer of the year for her memory-inspired collection (lower left). Dylan Taverner, who’s worked with Patrik Ervell, won the trophy for menswear (lower right), and Susan Kay was named childrenswear designer of the year.

Photos: Lorenzo Ciniglio (FIT) and Dan Lecca (Parsons)

Monster’s Ball Gowns, Blue Steel Returns, And More…

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Exactly as you’d expect, the dress code for the Monster’s Ball—also known as Lady Gaga’s new tour—is anything but black tie. Giorgio Armani and Miuccia Prada are two of the names who’ve created onstage gowns for La Gaga in her usually understated style. Prada’s, which has already been seen onstage in Ireland, is made of ciré, a plasticized jersey; Armani’s looks include a round-shouldered, sequined bodysuit with matching sunglasses (pictured). Of course. [FWD]

Two words: Zoolander 2. (Well, a word and a numeral, technically.) Ben Stiller to star, Jonah Hill to co-star, Justin Theroux to write/direct. Now we’re wondering: Were all those Fall 2010 shows Theroux hit in New York for research? [Racked]

Kim Kardashian defends her line with Bebe against accusations that she copied Fendi looks, saying, “The clothes you see in the chain stores at your mall are all inspired by designer, runway fashion!!! What stores like Bebe do is take runway fashion and use it as inspiration to create pieces that are wearable and accessible for everyone.” So, in other words, yeah, she copied all those Fendi looks. [StyleList]

In sad news, Alexander McQueen is laid to rest in London today at a private ceremony. [WWD]

And the wardrobe of his friend Daphne Guinness, is headed to FIT for an exhibition in 2011. If her current preoccupations hold, it should be 80 percent veils by then. [WWD]

Get ready to take a lunch break. Prada live-streams from Milan at 1 p.m. EST. [Prada]

Photo: Courtesy of Giorgio Armani

Jason Wu Remembers His Carefree Days

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Carolina Herrera, Peter Som, Olivia Chantecaille, and 600 other dinner guests did their part for New York fashion last night, at a Fashion Institute of Technology benefit at Cipriani honoring Saks CEO Stephen Sadove. Acknowledging that the industry keeps 175,000 or so of his constituents employed, Mayor Bloomberg presented the award and at least one trademark quip: “This is an evening I like to call Saks in the City.” These are tough times for retailers, but Sadove took it a step further at the podium. “We’re in an environment where it’s chic to bash luxury,” he said. No doubt the $700,000 the event raised for scholarships and student services will help Michael Kors and Calvin Klein’s alma mater continue to inject talent into the industry. But all the talk about money made recent Parsons grad Jason Wu, for one, a wee bit nostalgic for his student years. “I could just design something and not have to worry about it—not have to market it, sell it, just create,” he sighed. “Carefree days.”

Photo: Jimi Celeste / PatrickMcMullan.com