Vivienne Westwood Shoes: An Exhibition 1973-2011 – Launch Party

Friday 10 June was an exciting day here at The Bowes Museum as Vivienne Westwood Shoes: An Exhibition 1973-2011 opened to the public! There were times when it seemed like it would never happen…that things would never be ready (the technicians were still trying to hoist huge blow-ups of Dame Vivienne and a tumbling-Naomi Campbell into position at 5.00pm on the 9th) but somehow…perhaps by shear force of will on the part of Head of Exhibitions, Viv Vallack and Keeper of Textiles, Joanna Hashagen, everything has come together. By 10.00am on the 10th, the Fashion & Textile Gallery looks fantastic, filled with over 100 pairs of gorgeous Vivienne Westwood shoes and the sounds of Dame Viv’s latest London fashion show…and it’s a good job too, several eager visitors arrived at 8.30am…an hour and a half before the Museum even opens!

In theory we should have all been able to breathe a sigh of relief and relax a little…except that a few hours later 400+ specially invited guests descended on The Bowes Museum to consume copious amounts of fizz and canapés and (we hope) fall in love with the exhibition and tell all their friends and family to come visit! We were all excited, t at this point I was running on adrenaline and too much caffeine…the thought of adding champagne and lots of glamorous fashionistas to the mix was slightly daunting!

Of course I shouldn’t have worried! After only a slight hiccup at the train station, where myself and my colleague have been meeting and greeting VIPs, I arrived, weighed down with glasses and empty Prosecco bottles (I’d only had half a glass!) to find the party in full swing! All but one tray of Indian canapés had been demolished, café staff are frantically trying to locate more champagne flutes…hence I was drinking bucks fizz from a red wine glass and too many people were trying to squeeze into the newly re-hung 19th century picture gallery to hear speeches by Museum Director Adrian Jenkins, Keeper of Textiles Joanna Hashagen and Head of Trustees, Lord Foster. The Gallery is an enormous space…but apparently not enormous enough…I don’t think I’ve seen so many fashionable people in one place…many of them head to platform-toe in Vivienne Westwood! They were all waiting for the glamorous Kim Inglis to declare the exhibition officially open, the moment she did there was a mass exodus as everyone headed for the Fashion & Textile Gallery. Again, I was slow off the mark and ended up at the back of a very long queue which snaked its way around the display cases. Everyone was “ooing” and “ahhing” and taking pictures…they shouldn’t have been but no one stopped them…it seemed a shame to spoil the fun! I kept telling my friend random facts about the shoes and announcing to anyone in the general vicinity that I helped to install the exhibition…but I don’t think anyone cared…they were all too engrossed in the shoes!

By 9.00pm I’vdmade it downstairs to the bar, just in time to hear the results of the prize draw! I had my eye on the beautiful Vivienne Westwood orb bag, which arrived at The Museum that morning, but it had already gone to a slightly bemused looking gentleman who was probably wondering what he was going to do with a grey mock-croc handbag! I did’t win anything but two of my friends did…this wasn’t a set up promise!

By 10.00pm, as taxis arrived and people began to leave, some guests were hitting the dance floor (normally the café) and throwing what I guess must be fashionable shapes to the DJ-provided beats. Then by 11.30pm it was all over…I hasten to add that I didn’t make it that far, but if the chat on Twitter and Facebook is anything to go by, the party couldn’t have gone better…nor could the opening weekend, as visitors flock to see what all the fuss is about! If you haven’t been yet…what are you waiting for? The Bowes Museum is the only place in Europe you can catch Vivienne Westwood Shoes: An Exhibition and it’s only here for 4 weeks so get your skates on!

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