Walk this Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes

Walk this Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781911282143
Publisher: D Giles Limited
Publication date: 04/10/2018
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 333,330
Product dimensions: 9.40(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Edward Maeder is a leading costume and textile historian and curator, and the founding director of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. He has held curatorial positions at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Stuart A. Weitzman is an American designer, entrepreneur and founder of the eponymous international, high-end shoe company, Stuart Weitzman.

Valerie Paley is Director, Center for Women’s History, Vice President and Chief Historian, New-York Historical Society.

Read an Excerpt

CATALOGUE INTRODUCTION. Stuart Weitzman

In 1961, I took a seat next to my father in his Haverhill, Massachusetts, factory. He wanted me to learn the art of his business: designing exceptional shoes for women. I was a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and had grand plans about heading to Wall Street. The first time he showed me how to carve a heel, he changed my mind—and my life—forever.

END

Table of Contents

Foreword by Louise Mirrer

Stand and Conquer: The Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes by Stuart Weitzman

Standing in Heels, Standing on Principle? by Valerie Paley

Fashion, Performance, and Politics: An Introduction to the Stuart Weitzman Collection by Edward Maeder
• Sentimental Survivors
• Politics and Prosperity from the Ground Up
• Popular Dances Focus on Feet
• Skyscraper Moderne and Streamlined Designs
• Films and Other Images
• Conflicts, Postwar America and Celebrity Designers
• Pop and Popular Styles in the 1960s
• The Turn-of-the-Century Stance

Notes
Bibliography
Index

Preface

CATALOGUE INTRODUCTION. Stuart Weitzman

In 1961, I took a seat next to my father in his Haverhill, Massachusetts, factory. He wanted me to learn the art of his business: designing exceptional shoes for women. I was a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and had grand plans about heading to Wall Street. The first time he showed me how to carve a heel, he changed my mind—and my life—forever.

My own personal history is reflected by a few of the shoes in this book. The Million Dollar Sandal, for example, altered the trajectory of my business in 2002, when it earned so much global recognition. I designed the sandal to be irresistible to any red carpet interviewer because . . . . . . . . attention was not being paid to shoes on the red carpet. Commentators would ask stars about their dresses, their hair, their jewelry. And I felt it was time to draw some attention to their footwear. Today, the question “Who are you wearing?” is one that can rightfully be asked from top to toes.

The Nudist sandal was, in a way, the result of an opposite approach. I was trying to create the “little black dress” of shoes: a simple, sexy staple that would work for any high-profile appearance. This shoe also represents the power of celebrities to impact popular culture. The Nudist, with its sky-high heel, appears to be impractical for anyone who has to stand longer than ten minutes; however, after extensive testing and engineering we overcame its impracticality, so that it became an essential accessory in countless closets, thanks to its constant presence on red carpets.

The inspiration for the Highland boot began the evening I saw “Pretty Woman,” and realized its striking appeal. There had to be a way for anyone to feel at ease wearing a thigh-high boot, in a traditional work environment than the one Julia Roberts represented. I thought about this one for a while, working to get it just right. And once it came out, People Magazine declared it “The Accessory of the Year.”

The most successful shoe in my entire career has actually been another boot: the 50/50. It was first created it 25 years ago, and it remains so popular for the simplest of reasons: it’s as versatile as any design could possibly be. It looks equally good on everyone, whether worn with shorts, jeans, skirts, or suits.

Without question, then, the designs I consider most iconic to our brand’s DNA are the ones chosen collectively by thousands of women: lawyers, doctors, teachers, artists, mothers and daughters who claim a favorite and loyally wear the soles out. I have been lucky enough to connect with many of them personally; there is nothing I love more than hearing about the wedding shoe that represents beautiful memories, the lucky pump that helped land a first job, or the stiletto that led to an especially memorable night out. (So yes, if you ever see me walking by, please stop and share your favorites, too!)

Most of this book, though, is dedicated to a far greater evolution. In these extraordinary antique shoes, which span several centuries and countries, we see infinite stories. Stories of conformity and independence, culture and class, politics and performance.

Throughout history, shoes have often served to represent a woman’s social status. In many royal courts, for instance, extreme footwear proved one’s wealth. If you could barely stand, you obviously didn’t have to concern yourself with hard work. And the higher your heel, the further away you were from the common ground. But even civilians used their accessories to flash cash. The more embroidered detail on your fine leather boots, the more you must have paid to have them made. And, of course, a striking shoe can still make a social impact today, as designs are thoughtfully selected to express certain moods, desires, or objectives.

You may notice that many of the designs here look particularly uncomfortable. This might be a good place to acknowledge that the majority of women’s shoes have been designed by men. And yes, form has traditionally surpassed function. Who first decided that women had to suffer for beauty? Probably someone who’d rather not take credit for an increasingly antiquated idea.

Just as I love experimenting with rare materials and unexpected constructions, I am naturally drawn to unusual shoes like the ones in this exhibit. But for me, there’s often been an irony to their appeal. Consider the tiny silk slippers worn by women with bound feet, or stiff wooden platforms made with the implicit purpose of impeding movement. Many of these designs, gorgeous as they are, have inspired me to rethink the notion that pain and fashion must be faithful partners.

When more women entered the workforce in the early-to-mid-20th century, shoes had to become more comfortable. At the same time, handmade efforts began giving way to mass manufacturing. Many of the most beautiful shoes in these pages were crafted by small companies in tiny towns, servicing local communities. As businesses moved to larger centers of production, brand recognition became a crucial selling point. And a new level of professional competition required designers to become ever more creative if they wanted to make their mark.

As the women’s movement of the 1960s and ‘70s pushed at the boundaries of identity, closets expanded further, to include flip-flops, espadrilles, sneakers, pumps at all heel heights, and boots of all types, from urban cowgirl to runway wannabe. By the 21st century, we’ve all become wise enough to realize that you’re a lot more likely to look great if you feel great, too.

In another welcome shift, our industry began to see more and more women join the ranks of shoe design. Roger Vivier, Salvatore Ferragamo, and my father, Mr. Seymour, were well-deserved icons of another era. But Beth Levine, Margaret Clark, and Mabel Julianelli—all overlooked for too long—deserve similar recognition. In fact, they forged the path for an industry in which women are now equally represented, and naturally have put the art of comfort on a parallel with the art of design.

If you get as much enjoyment out of viewing these rare and beautiful antique shoes as I have had in accumulating them, the appreciation is due my wife, Jane. These shoes have been gifts from her to me over forty years, selected with a common purpose: to celebrate and preserve unusual and elegant detail and construction, and to provide an inspiration for me in the creation of my seasonal presentations.

It was also Jane who expanded our collections still further, by commissioning visual artists to share their own inspirations out of paper, feathers, and any other materials that struck their fancy. I love those designs in particular; what better way to honor my lifelong conviction that beautiful shoes are, indeed, an art form unto themselves?

END

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