Prince’s shoes enter an androgynous ‘purple world’

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CHANHASSEN, Minn. – Before I begin, I want to make one thing clear: You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a grown man panting in front of a giant wall of high heels. Not just any heels. Stiletto heels, made to measure for a 7-foot size – ankle boots covered in fabric mainly, but also thigh-high boots, thigh-high boots and platforms, in bright colors like the land of Oz.

Male, female, black, white, young, old – everyone visiting “The Beautiful Collection: Prince’s Custom Shoes” in Paisley Park on a recent tour on Saturday went gaga on Prince Rogers Nelson’s heels. Over 300 pairs, soles cleaned, fabrics sucked, forms padded and lit from behind, delivering us gender norms and pandemic loungewear.

Listen ! Here are the hand painted cloud boots from the “Raspberry Beret” music video; the platform roller skates documented by Questlove and discovered posthumously in a custom case; and ankle boots with metallic stickers proclaiming “Get Wild” on the toe and “Free Music” on the heel. (Prince wore this pair in 1995 to protest Warner Bros., whose recording contracts he found so abusive that he temporarily changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol.)

One pair was covered in candle wax. (The prince loved candles.) Another hid the scuff marks with the pink magic marker. Several pairs had friction burns from Prince’s legendary dance.

“If there is a stain or scuff, it should stay on the shoe,” said Mitch Maguire, curator of the show, on a humid afternoon. “It’s part of his story.”

The artist’s estate, who took over the management of Paisley Park in 2019, manages tours of the complex, which Prince built in 1987. Photos and videos are not permitted, as are tours of “The Beautiful Collection “, a limited edition exhibition open to the public. public in July as part of the wider Paisley Park tour, are limited to 15 minutes.

900 PAIRS IN STORAGE

More than 900 additional pairs of heels discovered at Paisley remain in storage, although Maguire said he hopes to display them over time. The aftermath of wearing only high heels for four decades, including a reported hip operation and well-documented opioid use that led to Prince’s fatal overdose in 2016, are also missed from the tour. .

Instead, visitors are treated – and it’s a treat – nose-to-glass close-ups of exquisite bespoke designs from artisans such as Willie Rivera, Franco Puccetti, Cos Kyriacou, Andre Rostomyan and Gary Kazanchyan from André n ° 1, as well as filmed interviews with Kyriacou and Kazanchyan. Between them, the two have built more than 3,000 pairs of custom heels for Prince, including bright Lucite platform sneakers and heeled ankle boots for arena shows.

Yet even reinforcements – in this case, a metal brace bolting the heel to the sole – were not enough to allow Prince’s shoemakers to attend concerts in peace.

“There were times my heart was in my mouth,” Kyriacou said in an interview with the exhibit. “He was a relentless performer.”

Building dangerously high heels embellished enough for the artist’s taste, but secure enough for his talent, required ingenuity and engineering. After all, Prince stomped on his heels – 4 inches high in the early years, 3¼ inches later. He turned and strutted and sashayed. It swayed, hopped, and slipped through the cracks so fast that unreinforced heels sometimes snapped off like a triangle.

Over time, designers have refined the reinforced heel and changed its angle. Kyriacou worked with Donatella Versace to develop the famous Versace fabric heels. (The label was the only one Prince wore outside of his custom designs.)

LOOK FROM HEAD TO TOE

Creating a literal head-to-toe look with custom fabrics – his heels were usually covered in the same material as his costumes – is arguably Prince’s most memorable contribution to rock’n’roll fashion. The goal was not to make the musician 5 feet 2 inches taller, said costume designer Helen Hiatt, who ran Prince’s wardrobe department from 1985 to 1991, but to create a look in which the shoes “would not cut your eyes”.

Gwen Leeds, a stylist who worked for Prince in many capacities from 1983 to 1988, remembers flying to New York to buy fabric from high-end stores on West 57th Street and taking it to TO Dey on the 46th Street to have the shoes personalized. built and covered.

“Normally you buy fabric by the yard,” she said. “In the purple world, it was done by the pound.”

Money was not an object, but time often was. Leeds’ instructions from Prince’s wardrobe department? “Ask them to do whatever is necessary” to meet the deadline. This once meant outbidding reps for Luther Vandross and Queen Elizabeth to get the fabric that became Prince’s 1985 Oscar set, which HER recently paid homage to.

“I said, ‘Well, I represent Prince, and I have money,'” Leeds said. “I have the fabric.”

PRINCE’S FOOT PATTERN

Necessity, of course, is the mother of invention. Kazanchyan recalled buying, demolishing and rebuilding a pair of Fendi shoes in two weeks to match Prince’s foot pattern. Hiatt attached metal bat wings to Prince’s toe area with double-sided tape to create his now-legendary Batman boots. She once even melted plexiglass in her oven to satisfy a last minute request for a glitter cane.

“You just used all the ingenuity you could find,” Hiatt said.

Yet when she tried to invent a new toe point on Prince’s shoe pattern, widening the box to avoid bunions, Prince refused.

“’You know I hate arguing,” she recalls telling him, staring at the floor. “‘Go change it.’ I felt sick for his little feet. “

Onions apparently didn’t matter in the purple world, nor did budgets. And although this purple world is not the real world, “The Beautiful Collection” reveals the benefits of an alternate reality. Because here an androgynous black man represents the pinnacle of sex appeal, straight white couples go ooh and aah to platform flip flops, and a tailoring shoemaker will buy a pair of children’s shoes from Payless, rip off the bright soles and fit them in. in white platform sneakers so that every time a rock legend presses a piano pedal, his heels light up like a happy tinkerbell.

And if there is any skepticism about the purple world, this celebration of the show, turn your gaze to the Paisley parking lot, 19 miles from George Floyd Square, where a group of black motorcyclists, engines on fire, rush to “When Doves Cry “in total. strangers dance.

In an undated photo of Tony Sylvers, gold metallic boots worn by Prince during his 2010-2011 & # x201c; Welcome 2 America & # x201d; to visit. The shoes are on display at Paisley Park as part of “The Beautiful Collection: Prince’s Custom Shoes”. (Tony Sylvers via The New York Times) – NO SALE; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH THE NYT STORY PRINCE COLLECTION OF SHOES BY SALLY FRANSON FOR AUG. 3, 2021. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED. –

In an undated John Wagner Photography photo, gem-set heels worn by Prince during his 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The shoes are on display at Paisley Park as part of

In an undated John Wagner Photography photo of the gem-set heels worn by Prince during his 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The shoes are on display at Paisley Park as part of “The Beautiful Collection: Prince’s Custom Shoes. ” (John Wagner Photography via The New York Times) – NO SALE; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH THE NYT STORY PRINCE COLLECTION OF SHOES BY SALLY FRANSON FOR AUG. 3, 2021. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED. –

In an undated photo by John Wagner Photography, boots worn by Prince in the & # x201c; Raspberry Beret & # x201d;  video clip in 1985. The shoes are on display at Paisley Park as part of

In an undated photo by John Wagner Photography, boots worn by Prince in the & # x201c; Raspberry Beret & # x201d; music video in 1985. The shoes are exhibited at Paisley Park as part of “The Beautiful Collection: Prince’s Custom Shoes”. (John Wagner Photography via The New York Times) – NO SALE; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH THE NYT STORY PRINCE COLLECTION OF SHOES BY SALLY FRANSON FOR AUG. 3, 2021. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED. –


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