McQueen’s Art Nouveau Heels
July 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
Two pairs of Alexander McQueen shoes caught my eye from Tommy Ton’s street style photos for Style.com. They were rough and carried a heavy visual weight – their heels and soles appeared sculpted from bronze – yet they channeled a femininity and elegance that’s seemingly essential to womenswear today. McQueen designed them for his F/W ’10 collection, reflecting his dark spirit in a whimsical way.
The shoes struck a resemblance to art nouveau metalwork from the turn of the 20th century architecture. Antoni Gaudí, one of the forefathers of art nouveau, often molded steel into organic, vegetal shapes to form columns, stair railings, and balconies, as he did at Casa Milá in Barcelona. In doing so, he hoped to create buildings that looked and felt connected to nature.
The gold, vine-like heel in the first pair of McQueen shoes calls to mind columns seen in the work of Belgian architect Victor Horta, who pioneered the art nouveau movement alongside Gaudí. In his most famous building, Horta House (now Musée Horta), Horta used what look like gold ribbons to form dynamic columns and light fixtures. The motif was echoed on the walls, ceiling, and floor, where the forms were painted or recreated with mosaic tiles.
The invention of reinforced concrete (concrete supported by steel beams) toward the end of the 19th century allowed architects to construct buildings at larger scales, eventually leading to the skyscrapers that dominate skylines today. Some interpret art nouveau as a response to this. While technology brought people further away from nature and toward dehumanizing concrete jungles, art nouveau’s vine-like forms brought people a bit closer to it.