Shoemaker extraordinaire Manolo Blahnik, described simply as the greatest shoe designer of all time by Vogue’s Anna Wintour, recently made a rare appearance at Neiman Marcus San Francisco. One of many local fans, Lillian Kwock—who stood near the front of the line at the department store's exclusive event—said, “I did a count last week. I have 39 pairs, not including these two that I just bought."
In town to promote his new book, Manolo’s New Shoes (released October 12), a follow-up to 2003's Manolo Blahnik Drawings, the famous designer chatted with journalists while the shoe salon buzzed with excitement and models floated around carrying platters adorned with snakeskin, pointed-toed kitten heels. In brief, here's what Mr. Blahnik had to say.
The new book, although a continuation of your latest illustrations from the past ten years, provides more of a look into the man behind the shoe than its predecessor.
Yes. I wanted people to know what I do more or less. My work is always something very southern Spanish or southern, mixed with my Czech upbringing. My father was Czech and my mother was Spanish. When you're born and you mix something, you know you're gonna get a little confused. My mother died not long ago, so I did some of this for her. I included her favorite poem by Federico Garcia Lorca following the book's introduction. It's about the gypsies, how they dressed, and the moon. She loved that poem to death.
Any illustrations in your new book that you're particularly fond of?
I like the theatrical ones. There's one like a little mantle or curtain that would go ting-ting-ting when you move. There's one that reminds me of fetishistic things like whips. There is one that is very Greek and Roman, you can see columns everywhere.
What do you like about book signing events?
It's the liberation. Designers nowadays have become machines, money making things and I like the freedom of being able to do events like this. Don't get me wrong—I love my factory. It's the only place where I feel really good.
Back to business then. What can we expect from your next collection?
I'd call my current collection whimsical, but the next collection will be completely different. I want to try new materials, new things, new shapes. And maybe it's not going to sell. They're going to kill me, but I like to do that.
What's your relationship to San Francisco?
I stayed here for a month once. My friends had a house boat in Sausalito, and it was one of those kind of things that marked my life. San Francisco is divine. I used to take trips to Coit Tower when I was a boy, and this time, I plan to spend the day at SFMOMA.
Photo by Drew Altizer Photography