In this week’s Newsweek, celebrated shoe designer Manolo Blahnik tells the story of the shoe design that nearly ended his career before it even began. In an interview with Newsweek’s Ramin Setoodeh, Blahnik explains, “The first time I had a major mistake was due to my inexperience. In 1972 I was invited by Ossie Clark, one of the biggest designers on earth, to do this collection at the Royal Court Theatre in London. I made these divine, fabulous heels. I think it was my first shoe, actually. They were royal-blue suede with acid green inside, and a sole made of crepe rubber, which is beautifully white. It’s like walking on snow, but in rubber.”
Blahnik didn’t realize it, but a steel spine was needed inside the shoe’s structure in order to maintain the structural integrity of the design. So when the models began to strut their stuff in front of London’s exclusive A-list fashion elite, Blahnik recalls how everywhere he looked he saw, “all the shoes going—boom, boom boom! The heels were moving around and bending. The models were moving in such a strange way. It was movements you’ve never seen before, even in the sirens of Hollywood in the ’40s. I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is the end of my career definitely. Tonight, it’s finished.’” To his total surprise, after the show people began telling him how brilliant it was. They were fascinated by the unique way in which the heels resulted in the women’s body movements being so strange, “I think they liked it because of the way the girls walked, so insecure and swaying around in the bottoms.”
You can read the full interview by visiting Newsweek. Manolo Blahnik was born in 1942 in the Canary Islands of Spain and moved to London in 1968 to work at fashion boutique “Zapata” and write for VOGUE Italia. After showing his portfolio of fashions and set designs to Diana Vreeland, she told him that he should design only footwear. Almost immediately following his hugely successful debut at the Ossie Clark show in 1972 (which nearly ended in disaster), Blahnik bought the Zapata boutique from its owner with a loan of £2,000 and the rest is history. Blahnik is a fierce perfectionist, and has said that it was this close call in 1972 that made him so obsessive about never making a mistake again. Blahnik’s designs have consistently focused on the stiletto heel, and his shoes have become a symbol of pure classical style for the 21st century. Manolo Blahnik’s flagship store remains to date in Old Church Street, Chelsea London, and in 2007 he was awarded the honorary title of Commander of the British Empire for his service to the British fashion industry. For all things Manolo Blahnik, including his biography and latest collection, be sure to visit ManoloBlahnik.com.