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The Italian Cultural Institute of Abu Dhabi Brings An Exhibition of Iconic Italian Shoe Designs

Photo: Courtesy of the Italian Cultural Institute

In Abu Dhabi, an exhibition displaying some of the most iconic footwear is taking place in the halls of the Italian Cultural Institute Abu Dhabi from April 28 to May 5, 2023. This display hopes to share the fine nature of Italian craftsmanship with the Emirates.

Titled “Italian Shoe Design Symphony,” the exhibition has been curated by renowned design curator Elisabeth Psu. It showcases 28 pairs of women’s shoes selected from legendary models and recent creations by the most influential brands and designers in Italy – from extremely rare pieces and those heavily guarded by fashion houses to evocative and innovative creations. The end result is a display that carries a diverse range of styles and evokes a number of different notions truly representative of the rich history of shoemaking in Italy. 

Salvatore Ferragamo, Sandalo, 1938. Photo: Courtesy of the Italian Cultural Institute

Commenting on the exhibition, Lorenzo Fanara, Ambassador of Italy in Abu Dhabi, stated, “The exhibition will be an opportunity to bring the Emirati public closer to the history of Italian shoe design, to learn more about the creation of some of the world’s most sought- after footwear and to present the values that inspire Made in Italy manufacturing: timeless elegance, beauty, creativity, innovation, and sustainability.”

Prada, Flame, 2012. Photo: Courtesy of the Italian Cultural Institute

The exhibits selected by Pisu were inspired by a desire to showcase the shoe as an object of design with its shapes and architectural structure with two main themes structuring the exhibition; the heel as a technological, aesthetic, and creative element and preciousness produced by reflective fabrics, Swarovski crystals and paillettes transforming footwear into precious jewels.  

Playing around with these two central themes she presents a remarkable collection of shoes carrying, “the visionary inventions by Salvatore Ferragamo; Sergio Rossi’s minimalist aesthetic; the magnificence of René Caovilla; Prada’s allegories; Versace’s eclecticism; the elegant architectures by Diego Dolcini. Also on display are the creations of young Italian designers, such as the unusual shapes and bold colors by Francesca Bellavita; MARIæN’s essential and refined lines, and the hyper-femininity by Alfredo Piferi combining glamour and sustainability.”

Diego Dolcini, FW 11/12. Photo: Courtesy of the Italian Cultural Institute

She tells Vogue Arabia that the most fascinating part of the exhibition is “seeing the exhibited models come together and evoke a comparison and dialogue between the past and the future. A harmonic vision of styles, shapes, and colors that endorse Italian creativity and craftsmanship.”

Another major guiding principle for the exhibition is the love that Emirati women carry for exquisite footwear and the confidence that these iconic pieces of Italian footwear are certainly something of interest to them. The female shoe is certainly an object of great celebration throughout history and here in the UAE, it emerges as elegant stilettos peeking from under the long hems of abayas. 

Haus of Honey, Honey Bubble Mary Jane, FW 22/23. Photo: Courtesy of the Italian Cultural Institute

“It seems even more appropriate if one considers that the shoes on display are, of course, feminine and that their celebration is aimed first and foremost at the women of this country,” says Ida Zilio-Grandi, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute of Abu Dhabi, before adding “The ladies here adore shapes, colors, and details that catch the eye; and they can actually design unexpected ones too, like those by Shaikha Al Ali, who recounts the ancestral tradition of her people with transparent heels filled with desert sand.”

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