JEWELS BY CHRISTINE


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THIS MONTH:
PARIS Spring 2004
On September 16th Manolo Blahnik, high priest of the religion of footwear, made a personal appearance in San Francisco. On that fateful day hundreds of female worshippers at the altar of vertiginous stilettos flocked to the Shoe Salon at Neiman Marcus Union Square to catch a glimpse of the maestro. Handsome models carried the to-die-for Manolo limited edition reissued masterpieces on silver trays around the store, while impeccably dressed women knocked each other over to try them on. Michael Kors once pointed out that, "women are insane for shoes because there is no size issue; with shoes there is no age." Indeed women love shoes, but why do the Manolo creations ignite such a colossal bonfire at the core of the female spirit? To me the answer to that question lies in the unparalleled craftsmanship, artistry and romantically sexy essence of Blahnik's work.

Growing up on the island paradise of Santa Cruz de la Palma, Manolo preoccupied himself with "manufacturing" footwear for his pet dogs and monkeys. "I made shoes for all of them out of muslin and pink cotton ribbons. One dog would lie on his back and stick his paws up in the air for me, while I tied the bows," he once said reminiscing about his childhood. However after leaving the serenity of the Canary Islands and getting a distinguished education at the Louvre Art School in Paris, Mr. Blahnik thought that his calling was in set design. It was the legendary US-editor of Vogue magazine, Diana Vreeland, who convinced him otherwise. Ms. Vreeland launched Manolo Blahnik's astounding career by dismissing his drawings for the set of A Midsummer Night's Dream and telling him, "Young man, do things. Do accessories. Do shoes." Thanks to Vreeland's momentous advice in 1971, Blahnik soon embarked on a career creating shoes that Madonna would one day describe as being "better than sex."
Diana Vreeland may have ignited the fire that is Blahnik, but it was Manolo's arduous work, unreserved commitment to excellence, tremendous appreciation for different forms of art and beautiful soul that consolidated his status as the reigning king of heels. Mr. Blahnik is the rare genius, who not only conceives the idea and draws the design, but also cuts, mounts and stitches the final product. "Í spent my time in the shoe business learning every single aspect of the shoe. If you want to learn how to do something, do it yourself," he remarks. Despite his vast confidence in the integrity of his work, Blahnik is at heart a humble gentleman who has been known to exclaim, "I don't like this kind of attention… I still think 'Why did I let myself into this madness?" In fact the word "madness" falls desperately short of describing the magnitude of the commotion surrounding the man. High profile women, such as Anna Wintour, Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Moss, Paloma Picasso, Winona Ryder and Faye Dunaway to name a few, cannot get enough of Blahnik's wearable art.



"When a woman walks in heels, it changes the way her body moves," Blahnik explains. "The walk becomes more erotic, enticing. It is kind of a dance." Indeed, a sleek body mounted atop a pair of flawlessly pedicured feet clad in four inch black stilettos is the very definition of temptation. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, there is no better way to get rid of temptation than to yield to it, and yielding is what women do best when it comes to Manolo Blahniks. Even the steep price tags adorning his satin stilettos, funky Tims or thigh-high suede boots do not constitute a deterrent to the hoards of us who relentlessly pursue his high fashion shoes. As one patron confessed in February's Vogue, "Once you cross the threshold, you can't ask the price. Price is irrelevant when you have to have the shoe." But do not despair; unlike the Galliano red skyscraper platforms decorated with bows, Manolos do not go out of style. They are never last season. "I think it is awfully rude to ask someone to pay a lot of money for a pair of shoes, and then have them be "out" the next season. People are not stupid. They know what they want, and they should get it," Blahnik says of his timeless approach to shoe making.
Manolos were the holy grail of footwear before Bianca Jagger made her legendary entrance at Studio 54 mounted on a white horse, but it was the rise of Sex and the City to the zenith of television that made Blahnik a household name. Who can forget the classic episode in which Carrie Bradshaw, brilliantly played by Sarah Jessica Parker, pleaded with a mugger, "You can take my Fendi Baguette, you can take my ring and my watch, but don't take my Manolo Blahniks!" According to Mr. Blahnik, his success in America would not be what it is today without Carrie and her love of shoes. Sarah Jessica, who was wearing impressively high Manolo heels the day before she gave birth, hardly plays second fiddle to her alter ego Carrie. "Most marriages don't last that long, but with Blahnik, you can be monogamous" she proclaims.

"Shoes are like a piece of theatre. You pull them on, you are different," exults the Houdini of female transformation. Blahnik undeniably possesses the power to grant women unadulterated happiness. Like no one else can, he bestows on us the mantel of a femme oozing with sex appeal. Are you a skeptic? Slipping into a pair of Manolo's innovations crafted from French napa leather, Swiss lace or Louisiana alligator will make a believer out of you. So go ahead and yield to Manolo Blahnik's temptation. I dare you.