Helen Persson is the curator of the V&A’s summer exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain that explores the transformative power of extreme footwear. The V&A’s shoe collection is unrivalled, spanning the globe and over 2000 years. For Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, Helen Persson has selected an exceptional range of shoes from a sandal decorated in pure gold leaf originating in ancient Egypt to futuristic looking shoes created using 3D printing. More than 200 pairs of historic and contemporary shoes from around the world will be on display, many for the first time, and the show will explore the agonizing aspect of wearing shoes as well as the euphoria and obsession they can inspire. Helen will be discussing these displays that explore our obsession with shoes and their cultural importance as identifiers of status, privilege, seduction and sexual preference.
Dr Thomas Turner is a historian at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. His research has examined the history of sports shoes, looking at the role of objects in social practices and broader developments in technology, business, sports, and popular culture. He’s been fascinated by trainers since getting his first pair of adidas in 1985. In this talk, Thomas will consider the ancestor of the modern trainer: the Victorian lawn tennis shoe. Mass produced, widely available, and worn in many environments, this was a recognisably modern product with many of the same characteristics as the sports shoes with which we are familiar today. Thomas will explore how tennis shoes fit into a wider Victorian world of goods and leisure, and consider what this new type of footwear meant to the young men and women who wore them.