Recently I entered a night club in the day. I am not sure how many of you have had this strange experience, but returning to a club pre-opening, with the lights on and illuminating the interior’s general grubbiness and alarming emptiness, you feel an odd sense of foreboding – even if your purpose is to collect a misplaced and alchohol-infused coat. This sensation is a little like falling into into the topsy-turvy world invented by Lewis Carroll, tied with the feeling (again imagined) of going into school on a holiday. In other words, the words “you should not be here” spring to mind. Surprisingly, I felt this same sensation at the Christian Louboutin exhibition at London’s Design Museum, although contrastingly an afternoon in Tower Hill felt more like a night on the tiles (stilettos firmly on).
The exhibit seemingly celebrates the career of the iconic shoe designer Christian Louboutin – “showcasing twenty years of designs and inspiration, revealing the artistry and theatricality of his shoe design from stilettos to lace-up boots, studded sneakers and bejewelled pumps”; and I got a strong belief that the show was the work of a woman with the level of diamante, lace and ribbons on show. It was as much as I could muster not to indulgently calculate the financial and sentimental implications that owning such a pair of shoes would cost; and I am sure that many there left wth similarly raised career ambitions – the words “one day…” have never been so poignant.
Nevertheless this foot fetish facade to a museum, noted for recognising the best in design, was unusually engaging. As a visitor, the dark rooms, plush red sofas and exstravagant footwear on show, made you feel more like a guest, at a party where the people-watching and fashion-sniping is rife – strangers eyeing a chic blazer or, more disapprovingly, my non-Louboutin-like trainers. A second affecting factor was the exhibition’s “grey area” as the worlds of culture, craft, taste and shopping collide; with the outcome that the audience’s purposes for being there was varied and self-indulgent (again very much like a club). A 3D screen in the centre apparently serve for the sole cause of rooting this diverse group to the spot – ogling at a Burlesque display (Dita Von Teese, admittedly in sparkling heels).
However, I suppose the real and intoxicating centre of the show was the vision of female empowerment and beauty, because while a bitch fight might ensue over the last remaining size in the Kurt Geiger sale or choosing heels might be a contest to be the tallest, Christian Louboutin knew that significant fact that if a women looks good, she feels good. As the shoe maestro wisely said “it isn’t about the shoe, it is about the leg”… just look at Dita.