Thursday, March 20, 2008

MORE THAN A MINOR OBSESSION

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photo courtesy of Splendora


Sarah Jessica Parker was mugged for hers in an episode of “Sex and the City,” and they’ve been featured in the Romance Classics cable network special “Women and Shoes: A love story.”1

Okay, I admit it, I'm obviously partial to this man's creations. As far as I'm concerned, Manolo Blahniks are the ‘Rolls Royce’ of shoes; an extension of the monumental creative wellspring of the man himself.

The first time I encountered the popular high-end designer shoes was in April of 2000. I was in my bedroom reading a feature fashion piece on the shoes in a local paper. In the article, there was a suburban socialite contemplating purchasing a pair of the very feminine Carolyne sling-backs (named after New York socialite, Carolyne Roehm).2 Ultimately, she decided against the $445.00 purchase, and I remember thinking to myself (as I drooled over the picture) that I probably would have been unable to exercise such restraint.

As an artist, I can’t help but to admire the designer’s total involvement with the design process. From its inception Blahnik does his own drawings, which are considered museum quality works of art. He chisels the wooden mould on which the shoes are to be formed, and sculpts the heel himself, all without the help of an assistant or an apprentice. Blahnik is even involved in his own advertising campaigns. The culmination is a most magnificent finished product.

Born in 1942 in the Canary Islands, Blahnik grew up on a banana plantation with his Czech father, his Spanish mother, and his younger sister, Evangelina. Both he and his sibling received a local education rather than being shipped away to school. Reading materials often consisted of his mother’s fashion magazines (US Vogue, Glamour, and Silhuetos) along with children’s comic books. It would certainly seem that the designer came by his craft naturally. Often he would watch as his mother made Catalan espadrilles from ribbons and laces, a craft she gleaned from the local Canary Islands cobbler. 3

Told to “go make shoes” by then editor of US Vogue, Diana Vreeland, the designer began with men’s shoes, but soon found this endeavor limiting. After receiving an invitation in 1972 to design shoes for another designer’s collection, Blahnik was well on his way. Vogue editors and celebrities alike began craving his creations. After finding a reliable manufacturer to interpret his vision of style and technical precision, the eclectic designer was able to perfect his craft. The beauty of the man himself was not lost on many a fashion editor, and in 1974 Blahnik became the first male to appear on the cover of British Vogue.4 And while he has only a few stores that bear his name (one in London, another in New York), his shoes are carried in fine stores throughout the world.

Without a doubt, Manolo Blahnik has secured his place in the recesses of our fashion psyche. As such, the 64 years old, dangerously handsome designer has forced every self-proclaimed style maven to expand her wish list. Now, merely reaping that perfect career, dream home, and knight in shining armour can only pale in comparison to the ultimate victory: acquiring that perfect pair of Manolo’s. Clearly, for us, it is more than a minor obsession.

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