Orientations: Bamboo Heel and the fashion gallery

In our new series, Orientations, members of the LGBTQIA+ community choose an object that resonates with their identity. Ryan Johnson chose stunning shoes in our fashion galleries designed by Winde Rienstra. Read and watch below as Ryan reflects on his connection to shoes and fashion.

Whenever I visit the National Museum of Scotland, the exhibit I always look at is the ‘Fashion and Style’ gallery on Level 1. While other people enjoy exhibits of animals or Scottish History, I look forward to seeing the fashion objects.

The fashion gallery at the national museum of scotland.
The Fashion and Style gallery at the National Museum of Scotland.

I just love the different styles of fashion and the history side of it all too. You look at trends for periods like the Georgian era and explore how historical fashion trends sometimes stay with us into the 21st century!

My favourite objects there are the shoes. I love that each pair is unique and tells a wonderful story.

A pair of high-heeled platform shoes with bamboo heels.
‘Bamboo Heel’, made of hand-cut bamboo and plastic cable ties. Designed by Winde Rienstra, 2013.

I’ve noticed that some of the shoes on display are made of unconventional materials. I love that about fashion, if you put your mind to it, you can make fashion out of anything. The shoes that stood out for me were ones made from bamboo, designed by Winde Rienstra.

When I first saw these shoes, I thought they were beautiful. Then I realised what they were made of and I didn’t think you could make that into shoes! Then again, I wonder if it’s painful to wear them. Some high heels are bad enough and these ones must be a challenge!

I love fashion. Especially the inclusive environment that it encourages. There are no rules! You can have your own style and it is up to the individual. In a world where most people think of following trends of mass-produced fashion, the fashion that I like is about being different and standing out from the crowd.

I have also always believed that fashion is gender neutral. No one should tell you how to look. Your style is you. I believe fashion should have no rules and if you like something, wear it and don’t think about what other people think because they don’t matter.

One of a pair of high-heeled platform shoes with bamboo heels.
‘Bamboo Heel’, made of hand-cut bamboo and plastic cable ties. Designed by Winde Rienstra, 2013.

Having said that, the industry forces a certain image sometimes, like you need to have the perfect body and you must be skinny. I think we need to bring in more diversity into museums by bringing in different mannequins to show different body types. This will make the fashion displays more inclusive and help people see themselves and it might even inspire the next fashion designer!

I really love visiting the museum and seeing these objects. In my eyes, the displays represent what I love about fashion: being gender bending and not having any rules.

Ryan is a lover of drag, loves to cook and is fierce about fighting poverty.

LGBTQIA+ stories have often been left out of mainstream history and we are keen to make them more visible through stories told by our objects, LGBTQIA+ voices in the museum and by bringing in external perspectives. Explore the stories so far.

And if you want to help us tell these stories, send us a pitch!

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