Featured workLeanie van der Vyver: Scary Beautiful

Women’s fashion has a long, widely accepted and cruel history. When beauty, social status and access to an otherwise unreachable standard are promised, pain is barely questioned and mostly thought of as just a small price to pay.

Absurd fashion practices were followed for millennia before being banned by society: ribcage-breaking corsets that gave users a beautiful hourglass shape, or shoes that forced women to lose both toes and their walking capacity for the chance of securing a wealthy husband. Contemporary beauty and fashion standards are arguably no better, and in response to her frustrations with the insatiable expectations of modern life, designer Leanie van der Vyver took on one of the most iconic fashion symbols – the high heeled shoe – and designed the controversial Scary Beautiful shoes as her graduation project from Amsterdam’s Gerrit Rietveld Academie. Van der Vyver worked with shoe designer René van den Berg to create the pieces: two impossibly high, reversed high heels, made of leather and soft orthopaedic foam. Despite severing the woman’s mobility and controlling her shape to the extreme, the shoes are actually wearable. By amplifying the movements and alterations caused by high heels, Scary Beautiful becomes a bold fashion statement and social critique that questions the idea of fashion, perfection, and beauty. What lies beyond the projection of perfection? Where do the limits between sexy and grotesque, beauty and monstrous lie?

 

  • Leather shoes, manufactured in collaboration with René van den Berg. Leather and carbon fiber, 10 × 80 × 40 cm, and digital video, 1 min 19 sec © Leanie van der Vyver, Cape Town. Photo by Lyall Coburn

    Leanie van der Vyver. Scary Beautiful, 2012
  • Leather shoes, manufactured in collaboration with René van den Berg. Leather and carbon fiber, 10 × 80 × 40 cm, and digital video, 1 min 19 sec © Leanie van der Vyver, Cape Town. Photo by Lyall Coburn

    Leanie van der Vyver. Scary Beautiful, 2012
  • Leather shoes, manufactured in collaboration with René van den Berg. Leather and carbon fiber, 10 × 80 × 40 cm, and digital video, 1 min 19 sec © Leanie van der Vyver, Cape Town. Photo by Lyall Coburn

    Leanie van der Vyver. Scary Beautiful, 2012