Bata Shoe Museum blooms with new exhibition exploring flowers in footwear

April 20, 2023 (TORONTO)
In Bloom: Flowers and Footwear opens at the Bata Shoe Museum today, Thursday, April 20, just in time for spring. As one of fashion’s most timeless inspirations, representations of flowers have appeared in textiles and footwear throughout history. From spring cherry blossoms as a symbol of new beginnings to the fall-blooming chrysanthemum as an emblem of joy and happiness, each floral motif holds a unique story. A celebration of how nature has provided meaning and material for shoemaking across both time and place, In Bloom: Flowers and Footwear features some of the most beautiful shoes from the museum’s collection.

“Spring is the perfect time to consider and enjoy all of the beautiful florals that have long embellished footwear and fashion around the world,” says Elizabeth Semmelhack, Director and Senior Curator, Bata Shoe Museum. “Flowers can be uplifting and calming, providing a sense of wonder and renewal; sentiments that we are all searching for right now.”

Both shoe lovers and flower enthusiasts will enjoy this fascinating showcase that pairs each footwear artifact with one or more botanicals. Twenty-five floral and natural material variations are highlighted throughout the exhibition. From hydrangea, peony, iris, and tulip to cork, thistle, and acanthus, visitors will learn about the origin and symbolism of each, as well as several interesting facts such as: during World War II, many countries restricted the use of traditional shoemaking materials such as leather and rubber. Shoemakers throughout Europe and North America turned to cork and grass to make fashionable footwear, including platforms.

The museum is honoured to have collaborated with three Indigenous guest curators including anthropologist Linda Sioui, beadwork artist and curator Paula Menarick, and Camina Weasel Moccasin, curator from the Galt Museum & Archives in Alberta. Each generously shared their expertise on a selection of three floral moccasins, representing a total of 9 pairs in the exhibition.

In addition to the exhibition designed by award-winning agency Arc + Co. Design Collective, the Bata Shoe Museum is excited to unveil a new front window installation created by rye florals co. Reflecting the themes of nature, transformation and growth, the installation aims to inspire feelings of beauty and abundance.

Exhibition Highlights

  • Sandals designed by Yves Saint Laurent in 1986 that make the wearer’s feet appear to be wrapped in foliage
  • Manchu platform shoes with flower pot style pedestals decorated with cherry blossoms from the second half of the 19th century
  • Hand-painted Air Jordan 1s embellished with peonies by artist Vicky Vuong
  • An Andrea Pfister mule from the 1980s featuring poppies
  • Peranakan beaded wedding shoes from the 1920s featuring peonies and butterflies
  • Infant socks with floral embroidery known as taraebeoseon from Korea, dating to the early 1900s made of cotton
  • Eighteenth-century shoes made of brocaded silk featuring roses

The Bata Shoe Museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The BSM is pleased to offer free general admission every Sunday. Indigenous visitors are always welcome for free.


With a growing international collection of nearly 15,000 shoes and related artifacts, the Bata Shoe Museum showcases 4,500 years of footwear history in four distinctive rotating galleries. Through the creation of its innovative exhibitions, the BSM strives to enlighten and entertain visitors of all ages. For every shoe there’s a story.


Sarah Power, Head of Communications & Marketing
Bata Shoe Museum
416.979.7799 x225

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