LONDON--It was 1955 and Dior had just brought us the stiletto. A 14 year old Vivienne Westwood, who had already been wearing high heels for a year, bought her first pair and brought them to school, sitting them on her wooden desk for all to admire when her history teacher came in and said, "Vivienne Swire if God wanted you to walk on pins he would have supplied them."
Vivienne Westwood Shoes: An Exhibtion 1973-2010 opened yesterday at The Ultralounge, a permanent exhibition space in the vast belly of Selfridges. Voted "Best Department Store in the World," the class favorite figured that wasn't a big enough feather in their hat, so the people at Selfridges will be launching "The Biggest Shoe Department in the World" next month and have chosen Dame Westwood's fetish for shoes to whet our appetites. Supported by rubber shoe designers Melissa, some 200 of the designer's shoes dating from 1973-2010 are displayed like fine jewelry in a chronology of footwear.
Britain's Queen Mother of Punk has found inspiration in everything from British colonialism to the Victorian dandy to down-and-dirty S&M. The show is a knuckle-rapping reminder of the true origins of the oft-repeated pirate boot, court shoe, 'rocking horse' ballerina, three tongued trainer and the mighty Naomi-Campbell-tumbling-platform of '93. "She looked like a gazelle in slow motion," Westwood later remarked of the infamous fall. "She's a very proud woman of course, and so when she got back stage she was so angry with me."
Westwood brought us the first corset intended for outwear in '87 entitled "Stature of Liberty" and named the shop she opened with hubby Malcolm McLaren "Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die" before renaming it an umincing "Sex." The designer has been thumbing her nose at society's rules or conventions since day one.
"I'm not one of those people who likes the 'no make-up' make-up look and things like that. I like artificial things and I think that's what we are," Westwood said once. "I think civilization is artificial you know, otherwise we would just be still living in trees." Perhaps her partnering with a plastic shoe maker shouldn't be such a surprise.
**All photos by Sabrina Morrison.