Conversation with Liza Snook – Curator, Collector, Connector & Founder of the VirtualShoeMuseum.com
For some years now, I have followed an incredible website called the Virtual Shoe Museum. And if you have kept up with Last-Report from its earlier years, then you may have seen a static page with a “hotlink” to the museums’ website.
Today however, the site has taken on a new shape with a plethora of inspiration, unconceivable, unimaginable, defying all laws of gravity, and totally reachable works of art. Whether to be functional, fun or statement – designers have been submitting their works since 2004. The Virtual Shoe Museum website also has an impeccable international resourcing area from Northern Europe to Lagos and Detroit, where you can discover galleries, museums, shops and blogs like Last-Report, Shoes Must Have Names and Sneaker Files to name a few.
Shoe designers and creatives alike have been injected into the fibers and storytelling of the Virtual Shoe Museum. An online library preserving some of the world’s most interesting shoes.
On the VSM website you can also search for shoes by designer name, material, color, category and accessory focus.
Design inspiration is everywhere and the VSM has an amazing archive of vintage shoes dating back to when people made shoes from twine and rope. From sneakers to fish shoes and everything in between – the shoe submissions over the years have been endless.
VSM Designer catalogs include Jerome Fulton, the late Zaha Hadid, and Funfere Koroye. The list is too long so you will have to discover these designers here.
Because times change and so do its creative wheel – I thought it was time to revisit the Virtual Shoe Museum and catch up with its curator, Liza Snook on what’s new, innovations, designer highlights, and what started it all.
When did you start the virtual museum?
Snook: I’ve been crazy about shoes since I could walk and have been collecting everything related to shoes since my graphic design study at the Royal Academy in The Hague in the eighties. To share my passion I started the website www.VirtualShoeMuseum.com together with my partner Taco Zwaanswijk (Stainless Media) in 2004. Thanks to the website I have been able to set up an amazing network and it brought me precious shoe friends.
The last ten years this virtual shoe collection was the base of exhibitions of shoes in art and design worldwide, in cooperation with various museums and events. And after a shoe exhibition in 2014 for the Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel, in Switzerland I could extend my passion for shoes to hats, bags and denim exhibitions. I also work as an image researcher for Workman Publishers New York, judge for various design schools in the Netherlands and abroad, give lectures and help young designers launch their career.
What dynamic changes have you seen in the footwear industry since conceiving the website?
Snook: The traditional shoe makers and designers did get a good company of architects, industrial- and product designers. There are so many new materials brought into shoemaking and thanks to moulding and 3D printing techniques heels and soles have changed a lot.
Which designer shoe has stood out to you and why?
Snook: There are so many good designers, so very hard to choose…. as a sneaker lover I have to point out Melinè Katchi (Ivy Park Adidas) and Safa Şahin (Balmain). They were amongst the first designers at the Virtual Shoe Museum and they create really revolutionary footwear at the moment. Their sketching skills and ideas are phenomenal.
What forecast (if any) can you predict for the fashion footwear industry in the next 2 years?
Snook: I hope research of new materials and re-use of waste materials will make the shoe business more sustainable. We have to rethink production due to running out of resources and to be much more eco-friendly. In our virtual shoe collection you already can find shoes made of unusual material like: coffee, banana leaves, mushrooms, jellyfish, pineapple leaf fiber, wearable paper, seaweed, sugar etc. In my vicinity I find there is more appreciation for vintage and upcycled clothing, buy better items instead of more.
How can designers submit shoes to be considered for the virtual shoe museum exhibit and what are the requirements?
Snook: I find most new shoes (art and design) during my never-ending ‘shoe hunt’ online or at design schools, in museums/galleries and thanks to my shoe spotter friends.
Designers are very welcome to contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Instagram. Then I will consider carefully whether a shoe has the quality we aim for and if it adds value to the online collection.
Think you have a design fit for preservation?
Learn more about the museum, the designers and what Snook is looking for in submitting your creative shoe design – contact her with the email above and check out the website virtualshoemuseum.com!