Manolo Blahnik is a colorful man. And it’s not just the charming yet somewhat indeterminate accent (he is originally from the Canary Islands, but has lived in Geneva, Paris and London). Nor is it his dramatic sing-song delivery, or the sweeping gestures that accompany his amusing hyperbolic proclamations.
But on this Wednesday — holding court in a private room inside Barneys New York, where he is set to host a meet-and-greet for some very well-heeled customers — he looks dapper in a kelly green wool suit (“It’s Ralph Lauren. Can you imagine?! An homage to A-mer-i-caaaaa!”)
Color, as it happens, is one of Blahnik’s favorite things. Upstairs in the shoe salon, where the event is being held, rows upon rows of his brightly hued “BB” heels sit next to bejeweled d’orsay pumps, crafted from royal blue satin.
“I love colors and pointy things. And dainty heels,” Blahnik says about his design aesthetic. “I never follow trends. This is what my problem is possibly, because I do what I want to do.”
One wouldn’t necessarily call his consistency a “problem,” considering the hoards of fashionable women who can’t seem to get enough of his creations (including Anna Wintour, who famously has her slingbacks custom-made). “I was very lucky always to be able to fit somewhere. People buy my work,” Blahnik says.
But what, then, does this classicist make of the “ugly shoe” phenomenon currently sweeping fashion? Does he recoil in disgust at the site of a cork sole or velcro strap? “Are you kidding?!” he shouts.”I loooove Birkenstocks. Always did — I wear them myself in the summertime!” Well, this is kind of a shocking development. He continues. “I also used to wear them in the winter, years ago, like maybe the 1980s when they were very hot. I used to wear them with socks in New York.”
With that, a handler tells him it’s time to go. There is room for one last question and, considering that Fashion Week is upon us and the streets are covered in icy sludge, I go for the gold: How does one look chic in this weather, shoe-wise?
“Honey, you wear this! This is chic!” Blahnik says, pointing to Barneys’ Simon Doonan — who is standing nearby, sporting L.L. Bean boots. I point out that I’m wearing the same ones. “And you’ve got them. I need to buy them!” He then turns to an associate who is also in the room and says, “Tell someone to go and get me one pair of L.L. Beans, because I cannot walk in the street!”
Well then, it looks like snow boots are stylish after all, and you heard it from the master himself.