Sunday, August 5, 2012

Goody Two Shoes

Earlier this year, we blogged about our trip to Melissa shoes in Soho, which features injection-molded candy-scented plastic footwear and design collaborations with of-the-moment-designers like Gareth Pugh and Jason Wu, fashion perennials like Vivienne Westwood and architect/designers like Gaetano Pesce and Zaha Hadid. Valerie's very-wearable, highly functional and terribly chic Gareth Pugh silver and black Aileron gladiator sandals for Melissa have appeared in our IF blog entries on several occasions.

This past March, as many of you know, we attended the Philadelphia Museum of Art's exhibition of Architect Zaha Hadid's buildings, cars, furniture and (gasp!) shoes. Dame Zaha Hadid, DBE, is an Iraqi-British architect and the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize (2004). Other winners include Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei and Kenzo Tange, to give you some idea of the heavy hitters she's keeping company with.

The shoes the PMA showed were the results of her collaborations with Melissa and Lacoste. If you don't remember it from our blog posting, here is Zaha's futuristic women's boot for Lacoste with a strap that snakes up the leg.

Although we admired both styles, we swooned over the Melissa model, and were crestfallen to find only the Lacoste Zaha at the Museum's shop. (Our shop assistant assured us that the Museum had tried.) Undeterred, however (we are not ones to give up easily), we did a little sleuthing, and in April each of us was able to score a new pair Zaha Hadid Melissa shoes in our respective sizes. Imagine our excitement at getting our hands these fabulous beauties despite their being from the 2010 season!

Even their white matte plastic box is architecturally interesting, with a huge signature Zaha cut out swoop on the top.

This shot gives you a sense of the depth of the cut-out in the top of the box.

Following is a true record of events of our recent "test drive" of our Zaha Hadid asymmetrical, swirling, cut-out Melissa plastic sandals. Valerie's shoes are in purple (just like from the Museum!) and Jean's are in (what else?) black. We could have worn them anywhere, but given that they're actual museum pieces and given the modern design influences at work, we figured the Museum of Modern Art had the appropriate gravitas for their public unveiling.

The shoes are waaay cool. According to the Melissa website, the design "engages the fluid organic contours of the body. The shoes' asymmetry quietly conveys a natural sense of movement." (Did you notice the asymmetry? The left and right shoes are different.)

After changing into our shoes in the restroom (more about that later), we ventured onto the museum floor. We hadn't gone fifty feet when a passing visitor exclaimed approval of our shoes. Proof, if we needed any, that we were on to something. Valerie stopped in front of an inflatable rescue raft to show off her fancy footwear. (Cheeky readers may ask 'Why a rescue raft?' We felt the shoes belonged in the Architecture and Design Department, the fairly large section just past the suspended helicopter and the open air walkway with lots of natural light. This section always has an eyepopping selection of mundane items that are not only functional, but ingenious AND a pleasure to look at.)

Valerie is a firm adherent to Jenny Joseph's poem Warning - the one that begins When I am an old woman I shall wear purple.

Jean posed in the same natural light, standing in front of a partially visible jacket by Final Home (on the wall). Its designer, Kosuke Tsumura, created it in response to the question"What kind of clothing would one need if homeless?". The transparent jacket has a wealth of pockets, into which the wearer can slide photos of loved ones (which are then visible without having to be removed from the pocket) and, when it is cold, stuff newspapers for insulation. If you look, you can see crumpled papers in the pockets of the garment behind her. Last year, Jean scored her own Final Home jacket at a consignment shop. (For more about the jacket, the designer's thought process, and the recycling program for the jacket, click here.) On the floor behind Jean is an inflatable coccoon, designed to provide warm sleeping quarters for the homeless.

The shoes do have really elegant lines. See how the scooped out section under the instep catches the light? On the other hand, the asymmetrical ankle strap on the left shoe poses a bit of a problem, and it wasn't the only problem we found...

Functionality: Remember the old adage "form follows function"? Apparently, that pesky little concept is sometimes overlooked in the rush to consume/produce the beautiful. What works on a 3-D computer screen doesn't always work in the real world.

Two cases in point: Zaha's shoes for Melissa, and her London Olympics Aquatic Center.

Shoes: Note how each of the asymmetrical shoes cuts away any support right at the critical joint at the base of the big toe, where normal feet tend to flex while walking. While it may "convey the natural sense of movement" and accommodate the occasional bunion, this swoop does not actually facilitate ambulation. The inability to walk in a pair of shoes could present a slight problem when producing shoes for real people (as opposed to a beautiful designed piece of footwear meant only for museum display), yes? The asymmetricality is part of the waaay coolness, but it is a little weird when it makes one foot feel so different from the other. Had they been asymmetrical in slightly different places, or cut in that one spot slightly more conservatively, they might have been fully functional stunners.

Because of the instability of these otherwise gorgeous shoes, neither of us was game enough to wear them on the subway or to cross a New York City street in them. Were we still in our twenties, this might not have been an issue, but we know our no-longer-so-finely-tuned feet, and were reluctant to challenge them to rise to this occasion. So we carried them with us to MOMA and changed in the ladies' room. (Kudos to MOMA for providing a bench designed for both comfort and function in its restroom, so we could change shoes with a modicum of dignity.)

Olympic Swimming Venue: The headline says it all -- "Design Flaw Restricts View at Zaha Hadid's Olympic Aquatic Center"

"Spectators eager to catch a glimpse of the famous young diver Tom Daley at the Olympic Games might be a little bit disappointed. The Telegraph reports that the 10 meter diving platform is barely visible from many of the seats, for which spectators paid between £30-£50 – a considerable sum. An award-winning project, the Aquatic Center designed by Zaha Hadid was approved by LOCOG two years ago, according to a statement released by her office, and comes with 3,000 more seats than originally required. Of those, 2,400 are unsaleable."

Hmmm. Sometimes "less IS more" and "more" just isn't. Sigh...

As with so many things in life, it is not enough just to look great in the laboratory or on the runway or on the computer screen. It's got to be tested and it's got to actually work.

'Nuff said.

Here's a little side note about the artwork in front of which we posed: It is "Mapping the Internet" by Barret Lyon of the Opte project. Once we posed in front of it, we noticed dozens of other museum-goers and tourists doing the same.

What we're wearing:

Valerie is wearing: hat by Chisato Tsumori, unlabeled bolero, H&M bustier, purple felt bracelet from Jean, Playable Art Cube/bracelet from Beyond 123, pants by Issey Miyake, shoes by - well, you know who the shoes are by!

Jean is wearing: vintage straw hat (no label) with black and white felt pin by Danielle Gori-Montaneli (who shows at the Museum of Art and Design's "Loot" show and the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Craft Show); black and white striped t-shirt by Express; black jumpsuit by Lilith; black and white creepers by Underground; red cross-body bag by Tignanello; black and white striped earrings by Aiaka Nishi; black plastic necklace and bracelet; vintage black bakelite rings and bracelets.

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  1. Cool shoes! And i love your hats :)

  2. I had a feeling that those shoes were going to be more about the look, and less about the function. They are stunning nonetheless! Every time I see Jean wearing that Lilith jumpsuit I want one for myself...

  3. OMG, I want those boots!!!!!


  4. I enjoyed your prose on the logistics of wearing those lovely looking shoes. I agree, when the shoes encapsulated your feet, it was so artistic. I am happy you gave them a good "go" while showing intelligent restraint. Beautiful shoes!

    Once in Las Vegas, I watched a "tourist" girl in 4 inch tall heels stomping on the sidewalk to the next casino. She was trying hard to keep up with her posse. Her ankles wobbling and her neck stuck forward, her heels clunking, clasping her purse in front of herself, like she was scared to get ripped off...One of my friends felt the need to give encouragement and yelled: "You go girl!!!!!

    A smart woman: she understands,we need Happy feet to get us to the next function!!!!

    You are wise and fashionable!
    Thank you for your honesty.

  5. Just stumbled onto your wonderful blog via Advanced Style!

    I have those Zaha/Melissa shoes and had no problems with stability while traipsing around the streets of Boston. However, the flat sole of the shoe doesn't provide any arch support, and the edges of the plastic cut my tender feet. Still, they're so awesome looking that it's almost worth the pains of wearing them!