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Meeting Manolo

Neiman Marcus NorthPark hosted 67 year-old shoe designer Manolo Blahnik this past Friday. My friend Ellynn and I observed the champagne reception and browsed the beautiful shoes while we waited for Manolo to make his appearance and begin signing stilelettos heels and his new book, Manolo's New Shoes.

The most beautiful shoe has no meaning if it cannot be worn in safety and comfort. Manolo emphasizes the differences between a good high-heeled shoe, which can be worn all day in comfort, and one which strains the calf muscles, pinches the foot and is tiring to wear.

Manolo Blahnik's father was Czechoslovakian and mother, Manuela, from Prague . Mr. Blahnik believes Prague to be the most beautiful city in Europe. Manolo and his sister were raised in Santa Cruz where they were in the banana business. His parents raised their children to be courteous, well mannered, and affectionate. His mother was an avid reader and read Gone with the Wind to him for a bedtime story. Like his mother, Manolo is an avid reader today and prefers biographies on stylish women. His mother was also the inspiration for his love of shoes. She would make her own with whatever fabrics she could find during the war. His parents believed in the properness of good manners and good grooming. Perhaps this is why he says he dislikes pointless girl celebrities. He thinks too many young people wrongly focus on being instant millionaires.

Manolo had a Catholic upbringing and a love for architecture. Looking at pictures of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia Catholic church I could see how he would look at architecture and find inspiration to create his shoes.
Sagrada Familia.jpgI happened to be in line with Dallas' elite fashionista bloggers. They were brushing up on their French so they could go to Paris Fashion week. It was a surreal experience for me because a part of me felt very much in my element. Fashion is a happy part of who I am and I think of Manolo's shoes as works of art. I think Manolo Blahnik, like Tim Gunn is appauled by some of today's young women and their lack of manners and character. Tim Gunn's books, A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style and Gunn's Golden Rules should be read by these Dallas' fashionistas because fashion and class are not just about carrying a Hermes bag; they include the posture one presents for life. Standing next to the fashionistas I thought of the French phrase, Acheter quelque chose à prix d'or; because these were women who were used to paying an arm and leg for shoes!

As today's role models get younger and younger it's important to remember the role models of the past. Manolo Blahnik and Tim Gunn remind us that good character never goes out of style. Like Mr. Blahnik said about how sad it is people today don't know who Audrey Hepburn is, I hope to teach my children the role models who have shaped the way great people and artists think.

Manolo was fond of Ballet Russes; Anna Pavlova would come dance in Santa Cruz. I can only imagine this is the inspiration for his ballet flats. I loved hearing that Manolo loves ballet flats. Flats can be feminine, beautiful, and comfortable. We had a great conversation about Audrey Hepburn.

Mr. Blahnik designed for the ballet, theatre, and cinema. He furnished footwear for one of my favorite movies, Marie Antoinette. It was Marie who made the shoe so fashionable; her dainty pink silk slippers peeking out from her dress. Just like in dance, everything is a gesture, Manolo's shoes make the gesture of your foot ballet for everyday.

I brought with me a leopard pair of ballet flats that I've purchased three times due to my bassett hounds chewing them up like puppy chow! When it was our turn to meet him, he shook my hand with his left hand and appologized for being rude! This was some of our conversation:

Me: This is my favorite shoe! I'm on my third pair!
Manolo: Well, this is one of my favorite shoes, it's such a classic!
Me: Yes, Audrey Hepburn would have worn it!
Manolo: I'm so glad to hear you say that! Young people today don't even know who Audrey Hepburn was; or Gary Cooper!

Blahnik is a very private personality and he shies away from the public. I feel very lucky to have met him because very few people ever get close to him.
Carrie's Something Blue Satin Pumps.JPG

Since Sex and the City, Manolo has become a generic name brand like: Hoover, Post-it, kleenex, Coke... Blahnik received so much attention from Sex and the City. Carrie Bradshaw was the first to introduce me to his shoes. One of my favorite scenes from the Sex and the City movie was seeing Carrie's Manolo Blahnik "something blue satin pumps" as the only thing in her big beautiful closet that Mr. Big built for her. Also unforgettable is the episode when Carrie got mugged in an alley and the guy took her favorite pair of Manolo strappy sandals. Then the ultimate shopping treat when Carrie treats herself after finishing an article and goes to the magical "Vogue Closet," and finds the legendary Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes.

Manolo likes to relax with gardening, books, and creating beautiful shoes. He does them all: stilettos, kittens, wedges, boots, ballet flats... He admits he strongly dislikes platforms saying that they're suburban, fake, and the volume is all wrong; he refers to them as furniture. He loves a thin heel. He also says that Texans have the most narrow feet!

Mr. Blahnik said in the September issue of Vogue, People need to see more beauty these days, I don't think the world has enough in these difficut times. Women still need beauty. Couture seems more difficult to find and experience in these times, so shoes are what women do instead.

Manolo Blahnik's shoes are literally pieces of art. If you have the chance to see his new book, Manolo's New Shoes, looking at his sketches you to will see the beauty in an artistic gesture of a beautiful foot.



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