Fetish or Inspiration, Uplifting Shoe Art

manolo blahnok drawings

I mentioned in my recent review of Deborah Batterman’s Shoes Hair Nails that it had reminded me of a book lurking on my daughter’s shelf, a gift from a family member who is a designer.

The book is manolo blahník’s drawings, a small pocket-book of 120 original sketches and quotes that create a visual history of the talent of one of Spain’s most creative and alluring shoe designers. Being a book full of hand drawn images, there isn’t much to say about the content, because it just must be seen and appreciated.

Manolo Blahník

Born in the Canary Islands, he has been sketching shoes since the age of seven and had hopes of becoming a set designer, before fashion editor Diana Vreeland suggested he concentrate on shoes. No surprise that there is a theatricality to his designs and a sense of the artist at work.

One of the best quotes, this definition of Manolo Blahník, expressed by Franca Sozzani, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia:

Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahník

While I am not a great fan of shopping for and trying on shoes, I do love looking at and admiring them and these designs are pure inspiration, going beyond any practical requirement and into the realm of art which is more likely the reason I was so keen to visit the Shoe Gallery when it opened in London a couple of years ago.

These are some of my favourite images from the book.

Manolo speaks through his shoes. For him, the foot, the shoe, implies the whole nature of a person, and expresses a story. ANNA PIAGGI

The day we bought the book (from Liberty’s in London) was also the day of the opening of the Shoe Gallery in Selfridges in London.  A gallery of shoes and in 2010, while the middle class were keeping a low profile in the gardened suburbs due to the recession, it seems the creative younger generation of London were being inspired to flaunt shoe art!

Selfridges Shoe Gallery

Designed by the architect Jamie Fobert and the largest shoe department in the world, it contains 6 salons, 11 brand boutiques and more than 4,000 pairs of shoes. And what an outrageously joyous wander around that was, a gallery with none of the pressure of a shoe shop, one is free to wander around and admire the masterpieces of the many diva’s of shoe design. There was even a Shoe Booth, where you could have a photo taken with your favourite pair, how generous is that!

Instead of one large department, you enter six different zones, each space a character in itself. The line of Spanish alabaster plinths modelling their shoes in regal splendour, give it a real feeling of a gallery, the shoe taking pride of place and unlike in a gallery or museum, all available to buy. The architects only managed to convince Selfridges to go with concept of plinths, having proven that sales of shoes displayed on them, far outstripped sales all other pairs. It seems we all aspire to the pedestal, no matter who or what sits on top of it!

Shoe Cerise

So does anyone own a pair of Manolo’s and is it true that some like Anna Wintour will wear no other?

Man Booker Prize Longlist 2013

Man Booker 2013 logoToday judges announced the Man Booker Dozen that have made it onto the long list for 2013. Last year Hilary Mantel won it for the second time and with a sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, which is the 2nd book in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy.

StetI have just finished reading Diana Athill’s excellent book Stet, An Editor’s Life arguably the person with the longest active memory of the history of books and publishing today, she won the Costa Prize for her most recent memoir Somewhere Near the End in 2009, when she was 93 years old. Stet, she wrote at the sprightly age of 80 shortly after retiring.

In the book she mentions the launch of the Booker Prize, mentioning that in the sixties, it was becoming more and more costly and less profitable to publish books and to compete against the bigger publishing houses. It was becoming difficult to sustain a publishing house that appealed to the more literary reader. She describes the two kinds of reader that existed, still relevant today:

People who buy books, not counting useful how-to-do-it books are of two kinds. There are those who buy because they love books and what they can get from them, and those to whom books are one form of entertainment among several. The first group, which is by far the smaller, will go on reading, if not for ever, then for as long as one can forsee. The second group has to be courted. It is the second which makes the best-seller, impelled thereto by the buzz that a particular book is really something special; and it also makes publishers’ headaches, because it has become more and more resistant to courting.

The Booker Prize was instigated in 1969 with the second group in mind: make the quality of a book news by awarding it an impressive amount of money, and hoi polloi will prick up their ears.

WBN 2013It worked for the books named, but the underlying aim to convert more people to reading did not. Not much has changed. The latest attempt to convert the population into reader, we could say is World Book Night, where publishers print thousands of books for free and they are given out on one night in the year, to people who don’t really read. Has that worked? Unlikely I think.

But onto the prize for 2013, this year’s long listed titles and authors are:

Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries

Jim Crace, Harvest

Eve Harris, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman

Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland

ColmTóibín, The Testament of Mary

Colum McCann, TransAtlantic – my review here

Donal Ryan, The Spinning Heart – my review here

NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names – my review here

Tash Aw, Five Star Billionaire

Richard House, The Kills

Alison MacLeod, Unexploded

Charlotte Mendelson, Almost English

Eve Harris, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman

Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

Congratulations to all those authors and good luck to anyone hoping to read the list, I’ve only read one and I do have The Spinning Heart, so I guess that will next.

The shortlist will be announced on 11 September and the winner on 16 October.

Time to get reading!