Manolo Blahnik’s shoes truly, in the words of Virgina Woolf, “change our view of the world and the world’s view of us”. Each pair of shoes has its own flair, whether it be through bright purple feathers, or large polka dots –they tell a story – both about their owner and the world they live in.
I had the opportunity to meet Manolo Blahnik in London at the Vogue Festival a few years ago. I was inspired by his sense of humour, his wit and his passion for his work. For those of us who have tried to replicate Carrie Bradshaw’s running with heels, it was refreshing to hear how much emphasis Manolo Blahink places on comfort of his shoes. When asked about this, he had said “there is nothing charming about a woman who cannot walk in her shoes”
One of Manolo Blahink’s greatest inspirations was his mother. When Manolo was of a young age, his mother, who was not satisfied with the shoes commercially available, took to the shoemaking craft herself and starting designing daring new styles. This is how Manolo inherited his “taste for the uncoventional”. Manolo’s journey took him from the Canary Islands to Geneva, Paris, London and finally New York. In New York, he met Diana Vreeland, the editor-in-chief of US. Vogue. She guided Manolo to focus on desigining footwear, exlaiming “do not think of shoes but of masterpieces!”. Soon after, Manolo Blahnik became the most coveted name in footwear. It was said a runway show was only worth seeing if the models were in Manolos.
So, needless to say when I walked by the Bata Shoe Museum and saw a sign for “Manolo Blahik: The Art of Shoes”, I was thrilled. I looked down at my feet. Of course, it’s the one day I decided to wear platforms. Manolo Blahnik had a clear vision of the shoes he wanted to make, and platforms were definitely not part of that vision. He thought they conflicted with the body’s proportions. Manolo Blahnik is credited for the reviving of the “needle” (the stiletto heel) which had disappeared in the 1960s.
The Art of Shoes exhibition travelled from Milan, St.Petersburg, Prague and Madrid, with the final and only North American stop as Toronto. As I entered the exhibit, I was immersed in vibrant watercolour portraits, with the shoes as models. The shoes were bold and bright, with incredible details such as polka dots, fruits, and lots and lots of jewels.
My favourite part of the exhibit was the section on botany which fused together aspects of nature into fashion. It showcased a pair of shoes Manolo designed in 1972 with ivy and cherries. The shoe exuded a confidence and style of its own – daring the wearer to be unique and courageous. It was incredible to see how much passion and imagination was embedded in Manolos work. It inspired me to stop just making to do lists of my dreams but to actually start living them. I left thinking of one of my favourite Manolo Blahink quotes: “I get inspired by dreams. Who cares about the rest?” So live, laugh, love, and dream big and let the rest follow. Until next time…
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Sources: Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes.
Photos courtesy of Anisa Shivji