Musical innovator, stage performer, composer, lyricist, actor and record producer Prince Rogers Nelson (1958 – 2016), better known simply as Prince, is one of the world's best-selling musical artists of all time. A pair of shoes, designed for and worn by the iconic pop star, has been acquired for the V&A's National Collection of Performing Arts.
Prince was known for his flamboyant stage presence, extravagant dress and wide vocal range. His career tells a strong design story involving complex iconography. Prince's albums were always accompanied with powerful visual imagery, and he used costume and artwork to play with his visual identity, frequently challenging traditional notions of masculinity, race and sexuality. Standing at 5ft 2in tall, Prince wore high-heeled shoes – an intrinsic part of performer and performance.
The pair of black, satin, floral patterned, stage shoes acquired by the V&A were designed especially for, and worn by Prince. The shoes' zips feature Prince's iconic logo, meaning 'love symbol #2', which Prince famously changed his name to in 1993. Its design resembles the Mars and Venus symbols, signifying male and female as one. The shoes also have special metal braces fitted between the heel and outersole – reinforcements which were neccesary to sustain Prince's famous stage leaps and extraordinary dancing. Almost invisible to the audience's eye, this creative solution supports the shoes' structure and ensures no discomfort to the wearer, which is testament to the design and craft skills necessary for a world class performer.
Geoffrey Marsh, Director of the V&A's Theatre and Performance Collections, said:
The UK is a centre for creative skills and a prime purpose of the V&A is to inspire visitors to discover their own creativity and the opportunities that offers. We hope seeing these shoes will encourage people to consider the creative opportunities of shoe design as a career, as well as educate visitors on how skilled craftsmanship and design can be used to support the art of performance.
The shoes, which will be on display in the Theatre and Performance galleries from 24 October 2017, demonstrate the important role costume plays in the iconography of the contemporary rock and pop performer. They join other rock and pop costumes housed in the V&A's National Collection of Performing Arts, including outfits designed for and worn by Elton John, Mick Jagger and the Beatles.
Find out more about our Theatre and Performance collections.