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Shoe show shines and doesn't put a foot wrong

Paper shoes created by Katsuhiko Hibino

(swissinfo.ch)

If shoes are an indicator of personality, an exhibition in Lausanne suggests that there might be some very strange people walking about.

Nearly 200 pairs of shoes are on display in the city's museum of design and applied arts, and they range from haute couture creations to the downright weird.

Even shoes which were not made to be worn adorn the exhibition, most notably Christine Crozat's footwear made of chocolate.

The aim of the exhibition is not to trace the history of the shoe, but rather to show the work of leading contemporary designers who followed in the footsteps of great shoemakers of the past.

"You could say that we are more interested in sociological aspects," says assistant curator, Claire Favre Maxwell.

"For example, why do people wear a particular type of shoe and in what circumstances," she added.

Split into thematic sections, the exhibition deals with fashion, sport and even fetishism - the latter section featuring some interesting examples of dizzyingly high heels, made of course from leather.

"What all the exhibits have in common is their originality," Favre Maxwell told swissinfo, "with the emphasis on the sheer pleasure shoes can give.

"Shoeaholic"

"Unfortunately the museum was unable to contact the world's best-known 'shoeaholic', Imelda Marcos, widow of a former Philippine president and once the owner of hundreds of pair of shoes.

"We did think of getting in touch to get her views on the subject but it proved too difficult," said Favre Maxwell.

As the exhibition makes clear, the shoe theme has inspired many contemporary artists to get to the sole of the matter.

Nearby, an interactive installation leads the visitor into a dizzy balancing-act to show how it feels to be perched on "pedestal" creations.

These are based on the traditional shoes of Japan and Venice and fashionable in harems.

In another section, Sylvie Fleury casts a critical look at the consumer society with her video "Car Wash" where in a veiled reference to male fantasies she has filmed herself washing cars - wearing a different pair of shoes each time. Other artists have created shoes from glass and even paper.

Nearly all the shoes are for women. Favre Maxwell says this is because women tend to have a taste for more originality in their footwear design.

One unexpected aspect of the exhibition is that most visitors make a point of lowering their eyes to inspect the shoes worn by museum staff: "I'm quite unable to explain why they do this," laughed Favre Maxwell.

Putting together this witty exhibition, which ends on February 2, was clearly no mean feat.

swissinfo, Richard Dawson

Key facts

About 200 shoes are on display in Lausanne's design museum.
The exhibition shows the works of contemporary designers.
The exhibition runs until February 2.

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