NEW YORK — In the weeks leading up to the New York collections, some designers take their minds off their work by taking a quick vacation. Michael Vollbracht, creative director of Bill Blass, chose instead to immerse himself in women’s shoes.

Vollbracht has been commuting to Toronto, where he’s designed an exhibition called “Beads, Buckles and Bows,” opening today at the Bata Shoe Museum, a nine-year-old temple of footwear founded by Sonja Bata of the global Bata Shoe empire. Vollbracht was introduced to the Batas by Beth Levine, the shoe designer, who had invited him to design an exhibit there in 1999 focused on footwear embellishments.

“I hate doing one thing,” said Vollbracht, who has worked as an illustrator, artist, TV guest star and part-time curator in addition to fashion designer. “I love diversification and working on lots of things.”

He said he felt the Bata Shoe Museum, given its obscurity to the U.S. audience, needed a little p.r. boost on Seventh Avenue, so he agreed to help design the latest show and encourage his colleagues to visit the museum. With a collection that spans 4,500 years of footwear history and includes 12,000 samples — from Eskimo mukluks to shoes that once belonged to Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley — the museum is a font of potential inspiration, although Vollbracht admitted the shoes that will be featured in his spring collection come from Christian Louboutin.

“This museum is a woman’s dream,” he said. “You can get so many ideas here from the buckles, bows and embellishments.”

Elizabeth Semmelhack, curator of the show, worked with Vollbracht on the installation of about 100 styles that illustrate the adornment of footwear from just before the French Revolution to the present, including recent examples from Vivienne Westwood, Dolce & Gabbana and Salvatore Ferragamo, as well as Sixties styles from Roger Vivier. It is organized chronologically, beginning with styles that close with oversized buckles (the adornment being demonstrative of the owner’s wealth), then showing the abrupt change to more austere styles following the French Revolution, and finally, winding through footwear history to show platforms decorated with a rainbow of rhinestones and Westwood’s aggressive design of shoes embellished with spikes.

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