It seems obvious, but the value of an artist’s archive depends entirely on the artist: Once you get past the music and instruments and notebooks and start getting into things like clothing and furniture and other possessions, it usually gets a lot less interesting. But where the shoe collections of, say, Bob Dylan or Pink Floyd might hold minimal interest, Prince — who had his clothes custom-made for more than three decades — is a whole other story.
On Friday, the Prince Estate and Paisley Park will unveil “The Beautiful Collection: Prince’s Custom Shoes,” featuring over 300 pairs of his unique shoes. Billed as the “largest-ever display to spotlight Prince’s footwear” (it doesn’t say what the previous largest such display was), it takes place at Paisley Park, Prince’s former home-studio compound outside Minneapolis, and will be included in all tours.
It includes the blue beaded boots he wore when he accepted his Oscar for “Purple Rain,” the blue ankle boots hand-painted with white clouds featured in the “Raspberry Beret” music video, the ones he wore for his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 (when he stunned the audience with his solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”) and more than 300 more — see photos of several examples, including some exclusive ones, below, with captions provided by the exhibit.
The collection includes “boots, platform sneakers, roller skates, and the stories behind them” in a newly designed area of the compound. It will also include “carefully crafted displays, video clips of Prince and his shoes in action, and recorded accounts from the shoemakers who created an extraordinary collection durable enough to withstand dancing, doing the splits, and jumping off pianos.” Among the designers featured are Donatella Versace, with whom Prince had a longstanding collaboration, and longtime Prince shoemakers Andre No.1 and Cos Kyriacou.
“Prince continuously pushed the boundaries of fashion, music, and culture in general,” said Mitch Maguire, Paisley Park managing director and “The Beautiful Collection” curator. “His expansive, incredible shoe collection is just one example of his artistic expression, personality, and lasting impact on fashion. When guests visit this exhibition, they will be immersed in the drama, taste, and complexity of Prince while also revealing some of the collaborators who worked so closely to bring his vision to life.”
“The Beautiful Collection: Prince’s Custom Shoes” will be a part of all tours beginning Friday, July 9. Tickets are now on sale for all tours through September 6. For more information and to purchase tour tickets visit PaisleyPark.com/Exhibitions/Shoes.
Prince wore these shoes, along with a matching cape ensemble, to the 57th Academy Awards on March 25th, 1985, where “Purple Rain” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. Prince was wearing these shoes when he (along with band members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman) accepted the Oscar from Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.
Prince’s style was one of a kind, and this pair from 1991 truly highlights that. These shoes, and their matching outfit, feature 12 signatures from very different influential figures, from a poet to English royalty to Mexican military leaders. The signatures include those of Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria (close match), Porfirio Diaz (close match), Edith Sitwell, Fransico “Pancho” Villa, Geronimo, and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
In 1985 Prince took to the American Music Award stage in these shoes to perform “Purple Rain.” That evening, he took home trophies for Best Soul/R&B Album and Best Pop/Rock Album for “Purple Rain,” as well as Best Soul/R&B Single for “When Doves Cry.”
Following the wildly successful release of his 1989 “Batman” soundtrack album, most of Prince’s shoes were in Joker colors (orange and purple) or Batman colors (black, gray and gold). Many pairs featured a Batman symbol on the toe, like this pair, which also sports a gold peace sign zipper pull.
Prince wore these black shoes with gold lame stripes and Love Symbol #2 zipper pulls, along with a matching turtleneck sweater, when he and his then-wife Mayte Garcia met Prince Charles at the De Beers and Versace “Diamonds Are Forever” charity fashion gala on June 9, 1999, in West London.
Prince donned these reinforced, gem-studded white shoes throughout his 2004 “Musicology Live 4ever” tour and during his induction ceremony into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 2004.
Prince rocked these iconic blue ankle boots with hand-painted white clouds in his “Raspberry Beret” music video, along with a matching suit. These shoes were made before Prince had his cobblers reinforce his heels, so two identical pairs of the shoes were made for (and survived) the arduous production of the music video.
Prince wore these gold metallic shoes during his 2010-2011 “Welcome 2 America” tour. All shows were performed on Prince’s iconic Love Symbol stage and featured appearances by several guest stars, including Janelle Monae, Alicia Keys, and Questlove, among others. The production toured throughout the United States before proceeding internationally, where each leg was marked by the “Welcome 2” moniker, followed by the continent.