Joyce de Gruiter has been fascinated by high heels since her childhood. As a child, she was enamoured with her mother’s Chanel shoes. As a teenager, she was captivated by the enormously high heels that Tina Turner strutted across the stage in and the mules that Janis Joplin would kick towards her audience. More recently, she has been intrigued by the Armadillo boots by designer Alexander McQueen, worn by Lady Gaga in her music video for ‘Bad Romance’ and the “torture devices” worn by Rihanna for an article in Another Magazine.
For that sexy photo shoot, shot by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin (with whom Joyce had previously collaborated in 1994), Rihanna wore a bondage-style suit by Alexander McQueen and a pair of shoes by the Givenchy fashion house.
The footwear, a pair of platform mules called chopines, was very popular in the 16th century. They were worn by upper-class women and courtesans. These rich ladies primarily wore chopines as a status symbol. Their place in society could be measured in the height of the shoe. Wearing their chopines, they both literally and figuratively stood above the rest, though they had to be supported by servants in order to remain upright.
In the 1970s, British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood spearheaded the renaissance of the platform shoe. Even supermodel Naomi Campbell found the designer’s high-heeled court shoes to be a bit too uncomfortable and they brought her to her knees on a Paris catwalk in 1993. This did not deter Westwood at all: “Shoes require high heels and platforms in order to place the beauty of the feminine form on a pedestal,” she once said.
Beauty or comfort? That is always the question when it comes to shoes. Joyce de Gruiter knows that life is simply too boring without unwieldy footwear, something that every woman understands. “High heels turn a woman into a different person. As soon as a woman puts on a pair of high heels, she stands more upright and exudes a sexier aura. A woman in heels feels more attractive, more self-confident, and more powerful—the pinnacle of womanhood.” Marilyn Monroe once said: “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world”
In the winter of 1994, Joyce de Gruiter presented a double exposition of the work of Vivienne Westwood, Inez Van Lamsweerde, and Vinoodh Matadin. The bizarre designs of the British couturiere caused quite a stir. Inspired by her collaboration with Westwood, Joyce designed an innovative collection of “Shoe Sculptures”. These objects bestow the most provocative element of women’s fashion with the iconic status it deserves. Joyce has transformed the chopines of yore into a glamorous contemporary statement, a fetishist object, a deadly weapon, an architectural tower, and, in all the iterations, an object of artistic expression.
Joyce’s Shoe Sculptures have already been exhibited in the Netherlands, Belgium, England, Switzerland, Austria, Dubai, and the Virtual Shoe Museum. Everyone’s walking in her shoes. That has become possible as of late, with the new collection of wearables by Joyce de Gruiter. They are equally as extravagant and breathtakingly beautiful. It’s true: “These boots are made for walking, girls”. And boys, of course!
A serious question, though: “Are they really made for walking”?
If shoes represent beauty, then mobility is not a serious concern. With her wearables, Joyce de Gruiter makes the impossible possible and the possible uncomfortable. However, true shoe addicts understand, because high heels are in high demand.
Joyce de Gruiter
Since 2018; Chocolate Art Designer
Since 1990; Creative & Cultural entrepreneur, artist and exhibition curator
Since 2008; Designer for Ugowo
1990-2010; Co-owner(together with Peter Willemse) and curator Art Projects for Stelling Gallery and Projects
Since 1981; Photographer and graphic designer