Icons of Elegance signature image

Icons of Elegance:
Influential Shoe Designers of the Twentieth Century

Opened September 23, 2005 and on display until January 7, 2007

Of the myriad shoemakers creating footwear at any given time, only a few shoe designers capture the imagination. The footwear in this exhibition ranged from exquisite examples of handcrafted perfection to shoes that rival modern sculpture as artworks in their own right.

With over 100 artifacts selected from both the Bata Shoe Museum's collection and international collections, this was the first time in North America that shoes with such significance in the history of design and Western culture were brought together. Surprising and intellectually engaging, Icons of Elegance celebrated the extraordinary.

Images

image of Pinet boots

Garnet-coloured silk boots with gold thread embroidery. Jean-Louis François Pinet, 1880
Jean-Louis François Pinet's fame established that shoemakers were no longer simple handmaidens to fashion; they could be style-makers.
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto (BSM P95.80)
Image credit: (c) Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Photo: Hal Roth

image of black Pinet boots

Black silk boots with floral embroidery. Jean-Louis François Pinet, 1880s
Pinet's footwear was famous for its extravagant embroidery, elegant styling and delicate 'Pinet' heel.
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto (P91.0128.2)
Image credit: (c) Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Photo: Brian Hillier

image of Yantorny shoes

Black silk shoes with black embroidery. Pietro Yantorny, 1910s
Yantorny's genius lay in the details. This pair of black silk shoes is an example of his sophisticated refinement.
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto (P81.401)
Image credit: (c) Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Photo: Hal Roth

image of Yantorny trunk

Custom-made trunk with Yantorny shoes. Pietro Yantorny, 1914-19
Turn of the century shoemaker Pietro Yantorny proclaimed himself the most expensive shoe designer in the world and his exquisite hand-crafted shoes took years to make. This trunk, brimming with Yantorny shoes, was owned by New York socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig.
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (CI.53.76.1ab-.12ab)
Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Capezio, Inc., 1953 (CI.53.76.1ab-.12ab).Photograph ©2003 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
High-resolution image not available.

image of Perugia mules

Orange suede mule with gold and black kid stripes. André Perugia, 1938
André Perugia constantly pushed the boundaries of shoe design. These exotic high heels feature pointed upcurved toes called 'Aladdin' toes.
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto (S86.0080)
Image credit: (c) Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto.

image of Ferragamo rainbow platform shoes

'Rainbow' platform shoe. Salvatore Ferragamo, 1938
Many of Ferragamo's designs have become icons of the 20th century. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of his adventurous, trend-setting design sense is the 'Rainbow' platform.
Collection of the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum (1938.2)
Image credit: © Salvatore Ferragamo Museum.
High-resolution image not available.

image of Ferragamo Invisible sandals

"Invisible" sandal. Salvatore Ferragamo, 1947
One of the many things Salvatore Ferragamo is famous for was his innovative use of materials. His "Invisible" sandal was inspired by nylon fishing line and exploited the potential of this light yet durable material to create a very sexy, seemingly invisible shoe.
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto (P86.94 / S962.9S)
Image credit: (c) Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Photo: Hal Roth

image of Vivier's comma heel pump

Black sequined comma heel pump. Roger Vivier, early 1960s
Although Vivier is called the "Fabergé of shoes" he was also an important architect of shoe structure. This black sequined pair of pumps from the early 1960s features his sculptural comma heel.
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto (P91.130)
Image credit: (c) Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Photo: Hal Roth

image of blue Vivier shoe

Beaded blue silk pump. Roger Viver, early 1960s
This blue silk pump with lavish beaded embellishment was created by Roger Vivier, the "Fabergé of shoes". It is a classic example of Vivier's masterful combination of innovative structure and dramatic ornamentation.
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1980.597.4a)
Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Valerian Stux-Rybar,1980 (1980.597.4a). Photograph ©2001 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
High-resolution image not available.

image of Beth Levine shoe

Blue velvet mule with silver rolled leather heel. Beth Levine, 1954
The rolled leather heel is a novel and innovative design typical of Beth Levine's work.
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto (P93.53)
Image credit: (c) Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Photo: Ron Wood

image of Beth Levine grass and flower sandal

Grass and flower sandal. Beth Levine, late 1960s
Beth Levine constantly challenged the conventions and as a result designed some of the 20th century's most inventive shoes. This sandal's witty design, with its Astroturf insole and plastic flower embellishment, is an example of her penchant for whimsy.
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto (S93.0032)
Image credit: (c) Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Photo: Ron Baxter Smith

image of Manolo Blahnik shoe

Gold kid stiletto sandal. Manolo Blahnik, 1995
Blahnik's toweringly high stilettos have become icons of late 20th century luxury. This gold kid evening sandal from the 1990s epitomizes the elegant eroticism of Blahnik's designs.
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto (S99.0032)
Image credit: (c) Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Photo: Ron Wood

Images on this site are at web resolution. High-quality versions of selected images are available for media for pieces which review and/or promote the Museum. To request images for these purposes, please contact Rosmarie Gadzovski, Marketing and Public Relations Manager, telephone 416.979.7799 x225. For information about image permissions and licensing, please visit our IMAGE PERMISSIONS section.

Exhibition Catalogue and Poster

image of Icons of Elegance exhibition catalogue image of Icons of Elegance poster

The exhibition catalogue and poster are available through the MUSEUM SHOP.


Media Information

Bata Shoe Museum's Icons of Elegance Celebrates the Extraordinary in 20th Century Shoe Design
April 20, 2005
Adobe PDF file, 1Mb, 3 pages, prints onto letter-sized (8 1/2 x 11") paper.

Celebrated Shoe Designers Lend a Hand in New Exhibition Icons of Elegance
September 6, 2005
Adobe PDF file, 1Mb, 3 pages, prints onto letter-sized (8 1/2 x 11") paper.

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With thanks to

Icons of Elegance was financially assisted by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, a program of the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Culture, administered by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund Corporation.

Exhibition Sponsors