Shoe Symposium Speaker Biographies

Colleen Hill is curator of costume and accessories at The Museum at FIT. She holds an MA in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice from FIT and is currently a PhD student at London College of Fashion. Since joining The Museum at FIT in 2006, Hill has curated or cocurated more than a dozen exhibitions. Her most recent exhibitions include Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion (2021) and Reinvention and Restlessness: Fashion in the 90s (2021). She has authored or coauthored seven books on fashion and contributed to numerous other publications.

Melissa Marra-Alvarez is associate curator of education and public programs at The Museum at FIT, where she curated the exhibition Force of Nature in 2017. Marra-Alvarez was a contributing author to the books Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch (Yale University Press, 2015) and Dance & Fashion (Yale University Press, 2014), and coeditor of Food and Fashion (Bloomsbury, 2022). She is co-curator of the exhibition Head to Toe (2021) and the upcoming exhibition Food and Fashion (2023).

Elizabeth Semmelhack is director and senior curator at Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada. Semmelhack applies her cultural art history background to the mission of the museum by exploring the multiple roles and meanings of footwear through innovative and engaging exhibitions and publications. Most recently, she has curated The Great Divide: Footwear and the Age of Enlightenment (2021) at Bata Shoe Museum. Her recent publications include Sneakers x Culture : Collab (Rizzoli Electa, 2019), Dior by Roger Vivier (Rizzoli, 2018), Shoes: The Meaning of Style (Reaktion Books, 2017); Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture (Rizzoli Electa, 2015), and Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels (Bata Shoe Museum, 2015), among others.

Los Angeles native Christyna Pourhabib is the editor of the coffee table book The First Pair. Her work considers how sneakers become an entry point into the broader subjects of race, gender, class, and identity. After participating in Nike’s Air Max Accelerator program, Pourhabib expanded the focus of The First Pair to create The First Pair+ | The Next Pair. The double-sided journal features conversations with legendary women who have been instrumental in shaping sneaker culture, and with some of the fresh faces who are forging new paths and shaping the future of the industry.

Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator at The Museum at FIT, is a noted authority on fashion history who has personally organized more than twenty exhibitions since joining the museum in 1997. Among them are The Corset: Fashioning the Body (2000), London Fashion (2001), Gothic: Dark Glamour (2008), Shoe Obsession (2013), Daphne Guinness (2011), A Queer History of Fashion (2013), and Dance & Fashion (2014). Steele is author or coauthor of more than twenty books, and founder and editor-in-chief of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, the first peer-reviewed, scholarly journal in Fashion Studies. Valerie received her PhD from Yale University.

Elizabeth Way is assistant curator of costume at The Museum at FIT. She cocurated the exhibitions Global Fashion Capitals (2015) and Black Fashion Designers (2016), and curated Fabric in Fashion (2018). Upcoming exhibitions include Head to Toe (2021) and Food and Fashion (2023). Way’s museum publications include Dance & Fashion (Yale University Press, 2014) and Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme (Thames & Hudson, 2017). She is coeditor of Food and Fashion (Bloomsbury, 2022).