Shoes and chairs share materials, purpose in exhibit

A West Philly exhibit draws parallels between classy shoes and chairs.

If the pairing of chairs and shoes ruffles your feathers, then the “Rest Your Feet” exhibit at Drexel University’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery may help you come to terms with the combination. As it turns out, the two have a few things in common.

“You need shoes to support your body. Chairs support your body. One accessorizes the home. One accessorizes the feet,” co-curator Roberta Gruber said. “One stays in the house. One goes out of the house.”

Co-curator Clare Sauro said both are also outlets for personal tastes and personalities to shine.
Gruber, director of fashion and design & merchandising at Drexel, came up with the idea with the help of her husband.

“My husband is an interior designer, and he has always collected chairs and got me involved,” she said. “I have always collected shoes and tried not to get him involved.”

The asymmetrical chaise lounge chair, designed by Harry Bertoia in 1952, wasn’t manufactured until recently. Its clear frame matched the translucent, strappy heels that sat beside it (Amanda Fries/TTN).

It was through her husband’s work with a particular chair that the connection between shoes and chairs began to form.

When Gruber saw a chair by Charlotte Alix that was recovered in goat fur by Michael Gruber Design and John Alexander Ltd, it reminded her of après-ski boots, which she’s always loved. The end product of the chair was a plush seat covered in goat fur.

“[The chair is] the first thing you see when you walk in the room,” said Lauren Shields, a junior digital media major at Drexel. “It looks really comfortable.”

The exhibit is separated into nine themes such as “Wild Life,” “Patterns Play” and “Open Work.” The first theme holds the ski boot-inspired chair that started it all.

The chair is paired with a 1970s white après-ski boot by Diadora, as well as a shoe covered in colorful feathers and one made of unborn calf-skin. The material used connects the chair and the shoes, as do the elements that once created the identity of an animal.

The most appealing chair came out of the “Pattern Plays” theme. The Antwerp chair, designed by Anthropologie, is a burst of pattern and colors. Along with the Antwerp chair are four shoes, unlike many of the stiletto heels that accompany other chairs from the exhibit. Both the peep-toe sling back by Miss Albright and the platform sling-back by Urbanites sport a lower heel.

“Open Work” also had an interesting, if not entirely uncomfortable chair that would look good in a mod-inspired room.

Harry Bertoia originally designed the asymmetrical chaise lounge chair in 1952, but it wasn’t until recently that the design was manufactured. The chair is paired with strappy heels and platforms that are translucent just like the chair.

Gruber said the “K” movement of the base of the evening shoe mimics the curve of the lounge chair.
While many of the chairs situated in the gallery might be tempting to sit on, everything in the exhibit is for viewing only.

Jaqi Kleiman oversees the exhibit and said she has to frequently remind people not to touch the chairs. The shoes are in cases mounted on the wall.

“We wanted to make sure that it was a height that people could see them for the sculptural objects that they are,” Sauro said. “That’s also why we chose to only show one because if you see a pair of shoes it’s more like shopping in a store.”

Sauro’s favorite shoe in the display is in the “Elegant Times” theme. Covered in glass beading and accented with tiny straps, it’s easy to see why it would be placed under the theme.

“I love how flamboyant they are,” she said. “No one’s going to see them, so why wear such decadent shoes? Because they make her happy.”

Amanda Fries can be reached at

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