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The global obsession with footwear hasn’t taken so much as a pause despite the retail downturn of the last two years. In fact, it has grown even stronger across all price points. From Payless collaborations with Christian Siriano and Lela Rose to luxury designers Behnaz Kanani and Mai Lamore making shoe creations in the $5,000 to 10,000 range, the international obsession with shoes shows no sign of abating. And now the industry has its first crossover hit with SHOES, a new dance musical, which opened in London’s West End last week.

Featuring song and dance numbers ranging from “The Stiletto” to “Vex in the City” to the aptly titled “Salvatore Ferragamo,” the production is poised to continue to elevate footwear’s current cultural status. A slew of designers contributed to the musical, from Georgina Goodman to the legendary Thierry de Havilland, Beatrix Ong, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tracey Neuls, Joseph Azagury, Oliver Sweeney and Rob Goodwin, to name just a few.

Igniting the London shoe design community, designers weighed in on the importance of this production in the minds of women, fashion consumers and the footwear industry itself. Georgina Goodman, for instance, loved the enticing physicality of the production: “It is amazing! The dancers are mesmerizing, so strong, fluid and powerful; a pure celebration of just how inexplicable is our love of shoes.” Beatrix Ong noted, ” I’m quite used to working out my sketches to become a shoe, but working out a giant one for a musical stage that had to function on so many levels was really exciting. I’m really proud to have been a part of it.” Rob Goodwin, meanwhile, zeroed in on the lust the show uncovers, “The show taps into the obsession that many women have for their shoes, which can sometimes border on the insane. It manages to do this in a celebratory way without insulting the shoe industry or its customers, reinforcing the prestige of great brands and introduces newer names to an interested audience. It shines a big welcome spotlight on our world.” Designer Tracy Neuls remarked, “Sometimes design can be taken too seriously in an elitist way and I think the approach to SHOES is appropriately humorous.”

Joseph Azagury felt the show highlighted the growing centrality footwear occupies in the wardrobe. “Shoes have become more of a statement of expression rather than an accessory,” he noted. Poppy Watson who is an ex-dancer and the marketing director at Oliver Sweeney commented, “the show raises the visibility of the footwear industry through the very fact that it’s on, and the work they have done for the show. It also shows that passion for shoes is something that everyone has . . . part of everyone’s life.”

Written and composed by Richard Thomas, who is best known for his work Jerry Springer: The Opera, and choreographed by a team led by Stephan Mears, the Sadler’s Wells performance is a departure from its usual fare. However, after Richard’s powerful 15-minute pitch leading with the one simple word (“Shoes!”), Alistair Spaulding, the director of acclaimed dance centre Sadlers Wells, greenlit the show immediately and went forward full force. Noted Ong: “It’s very difficult in any project to do with shoes that isn’t going to be contrived. But Richard nailed it. The show is amazing: beautiful, funny and surprisingly emotional in parts, with original songs and performances by an excellent cast.” Stay tuned for more footwear fantasy. We’re sure TV shows, iPhone apps and more will start to ignite the shoe landscape.

-Meghan Cleary
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