The Bally shoe museum, a living tradition
Swiss ‘Maison Bally’ offers a voyage through its history and values by means of a rich shoe collection on show.
Since its creation in 1851, the Bally founder and his descendants have accumulated a collection of shoes and other curiosities which are displayed in this small museum. Created in 1942, it showcases the prestigious story of this family business.
Heritage and tradition at the heart of the brand
Before arriving at the museum, the visitor travels through a countryside park which surrounds the museum. Nothing has changed since the era when Carl Franz Bally, the creator of the house, was born. This space, which appears to be frozen in time, helps visitors to become immersed in the timeless universe of the brand.
The museum is located in the founder’s house, a traditional 18th-century manor. It is here that the ‘Maison Bally’, which never fails to highlight its Swiss origins and the importance of the local area, took root. That is clear from the brand’s logo, which features the family coat of arms and the Swiss cross.
On the first floor of the museum the oldest shoes in the collection are on show. They are displayed in large glass showcases in the heart of a space which is full of light thanks to the manor’s large windows. This is a chronological path which shows the brand’s commitment to continuity and history displayed in this rich collection.
Among the major rooms, visitors see Amerindian loafers, slippers from the China of Confucius or woven palm leaf sandals from ancient Egypt.
These precious rooms are proof of the historic importance of the brand. This is not just limited to antiquities, given that Bally has worked with Swiss designers on a mobile exhibition dedicated to modernism (the artistic trend of the early 20th century) in 2014, and has been inspired by this for many of its current collections.
The shoe, the historic heart of Bally’s vocation
In 1976, Bally successfully launched its first range of prêt-à-porter and accessories which today represent half its revenue. However, the company remains very attached to the heart of its business and has in recent years refocused on the manufacture of shoes. In this regard, the museum shows the importance of shoemaking to the brand.
The ground floor of the museum, on the site of the first Bally workshop, traces the evolution of manufacturing techniques over time by displaying old shoemaking utensils, drawings and engravings. Bally is therefore presented as a specialist, an expert in the world of shoes.
The museum also offers an immersive and sensory experience which goes beyond the simple museology of the collection. Visitors can experience the life of a cobbler by handling different types of leather and models at different stages of their manufacture in order to better understand the importance and diversity of the materials used in the creation of a shoe.
The brand also shows visitors its commitment to artisanal production techniques. This helps found the excellent reputation of its products: unique pieces of high quality. The company has maintained this tradition with the recent opening of a concept store in Dubai which allows a client to develop, with workers from the brand, made-to-measure designs.
A brand that is making history
Through its museum, ‘Maison Bally’ shows not only a general history of shoes but also a look at its own history which covers more than 150 years of existence.
In one of the rooms on the second floor visitors are invited to enter the old office of the founder which has been conserved in its original state. The Bally adventure is also a human one: the brand was launched by Carl Franz Bally, whose family business was previously elastic ribbons. He wanted to give his wife some laced ankle boots on her return from a trip to Paris in 1849. This gift inspired him and the business diversified.
The collection also shows how the Swiss brand, on many occasions, has marked history with its legendary designs which incorporated important aesthetic and functional innovations at the time. Among them, visitors will be able to check out the Zurich stilettos or the first pair of shoes with trainspotting bands on them.
The Swiss company has also created some of the most famous shoes of the 20th century. Among them are the pair worn by Queen Elizabeth II for her coronation, presented in a box covered in pearly silk. The whiteness of this piece, which occupies a level of a light-filled display case on its own, immediately attracts the eye. Not far from this, the museum shows the pair of boots worn by Neil Armstrong for his first steps on the moon.
These legendary designs are a testament to the historic prestige of the brand. They also show its ability, throughout different eras, to stay at the cutting edge of design and innovation. The brand has been able to reinvent itself without forgetting its roots, to remain a world leader in luxury shoes.