Elizabeth Semmelhack: The World’s Foremost Shoe Curator
Go ahead, try it, Google the following, “the world’s foremost shoe curator?” Who appears on your screen? Elizabeth Semmelhack! And, it’s no surprise. The Creative Director and Senior Curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada, began her career at the renowned gallery in 2000 with little knowledge in footwear and has become the shoe sage of the world. Since her tenure, Semmelhack has curated over 20 exhibitions, written more than 30 articles and authored eleven books about historical and contemporary footwear.
Semmelhack’s knowledge of the varied subjects related to footwear including key historical events, generational culture and fashion, manufacturing processes, and even societal class hierarchies is extraordinary. Her shoe and fashion anecdotes are so mesmerizing, it’s impossible not to be captivated and left yearning for more. In one segment, Semmelhack provides one of the most enlightening explanations for fashion attire and social class you’ll ever hear.
Adding depth to shoe knowledge and design on this special episode was guest host Aki Choklat, Fashion Accessories Chair, College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan, and international shoe designer. Aki provided a robust collegial shoe discussion with Elizabeth as the interview spanned the invention of high heels in the 10th century to the latest collaboration between celebrities and famous sneaker brands.
Semmelhack’s passion in her quest to discover every last relevant detail about the ubiquitous shoe is obvious. It’s fascinating, and fun, to hear her wax eloquent about human history in such an accurate manner based on footwear. Indeed, in her latest book, Sneakers x Culture: Collab, released in 2019, Semmelhack brings her 20-year shoe curating knowledge full circle to contemporary dress and culture masterfully explaining the art of sneaker brand and celebrity collaboration. From concept and design to manufacturing, marketing and sales, the book casts new light on the dominant role sneakers play in fashion and culture.
Finally, Semmelhack ends the interview offering rare honest advice to those entering the pursuit of art history, curating, fashion or design--"it’s hard work!” Those words should leave little doubt how Elizabeth Semmelhack became the world’s foremost shoe curator! Enjoy!