Opening ‘Heaven or Hell?’

An exhibition on extraordinary

95% of Dutch women feel more confident when wearing a pair of beautiful shoes. However, an average of 23 pairs of shoes in the closet suggest that shoes also fulfil other desires. Showcasing 100 pairs of remarkable footwear, the new ‘Heaven or Hell?’ exhibition at the Cube design museum highlights the needs shoes can fulfil and how shoe designers play in on this. Current, iconic specimens, shoes from the recent past, and new innovations for future shoes, ‘Heaven or Hell?’ has them all. Stilettos, ballerinas, wedges, sneakers, flip flops: are they heavenly or hell? The exhibition is a co-production with Italy’s IMF Foundation and can be visited in the Cube design museum from 28 January to 2 September 2018.

From celebrity to icon

Over 100 pairs of special shoes have been selected for the exhibition; from shoes worn by celebrities such as Marylin Monroe, Judy Garland, Brigitte Bardot, Lady GaGa, Sara Jessica Parker in her role as Carrie Bradshaw, and Naomi Campbell, to designs by ten Dutch designers, such as the Magnetic Shoe by Jólan van der Wiel for Iris van Herpen, and iconic samples by famous international designers such as Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Beth Levine, Vivienne Westwood, and Salvator Ferragamo.
Once on the foot, many of these shoes make it a challenge to move. Even an experienced high heel wearer like Naomi Campbell can be felled by designs with dizzyingly high heels as we saw in the famous fragment of the Vivienne Westwood show in 1993. This pair of ‘evildoers’ with a 23-cm high platform sole and heel are on display at the exhibition. Through their search for ever greater heights and unprecedented shapes, designers challenge existing shoe conventions and in turn create a new scene and new needs.

Comfort and image

Although every extra centimetre provides a boost in self-confidence for some people, comfort is the primary criterion for the majority of Dutch women when it comes to purchasing shoes. The exhibition also includes shoes designed for ease of use, shoes that contribute to the quality of movement and foot-wellbeing. These shoes have often also become iconic over the years, such as a symbol of a particular subculture or as an example of an informal and active lifestyle. Think of Dr. Martens for instance, now must-haves for fashionistas, but for years it was the go-to shoe for the alternative punk scene. It is impossible to imagine a world without Converse sneakers, on the market since 1917 and worn by basketball players and hip business men who use them to lighten-up their business suit and create a more casual look. Shoes are pre-eminently a means of self-expression and the choice for certain footwear contributes to the image we want to create for ourselves.

Future shoes

Shoe designers experiment with new technological and innovative materials. This allows the creation of shoes with new shapes and textures, such as the llabo-shoe by Ross Lovegrove. He used a 3D printer to create a shoe with a fine structure that drapes across the foot. British architect Zaha Hadid designed the NOVA shoe for the Dutch brand United Nude. It uses a pressure technique to make the 16-cm high heel look like it is floating.

Sustainable shoes

The sustainable use of raw materials is a reason for many designers to experiment with new materials. ‘Heaven or Hell?’ is exhibiting a prototype of a shoe made of banana peels, a concept by Dutch designer Lotte de Boer. You can also view the world’s first pair of 3D knitted shoes, using the exact amount of necessary material. Lou Moria’s fully recyclable shoe is probably the greatest shoe when it comes to the future of our planet, but does it also look great? Entirely in style with the philosophy of the museum, Cube design museum will leave the decision between heaven or hell entirely up to the visitors.

28 January 2018 – 2 September 2018
Cube design museum
Museumplein 2 in Kerkrade.