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?

12 thoughts on “Fetish or Inspiration, Uplifting Shoe Art

  1. I hate to buy shoes, but do like looking! My favorite designer is NIKE. This was a cool and refreshing post to read during a heavy, hot summer!


  2. I hate wearing shoes but I love looking at them. I gave a friend who swears by his. She insists you will never have a more comfortable pair. I should buy her the book.


  3. A few years back it was all over the news about how some women were getting bone(s) surgically removed from their feet so they could wear Manolo Blahniks! IF only Cinderalla’s step-sisters had thought of that!
    Honestly! I’m a size 11.
    ~Just (Tall) Jill


    • Actually, Jill, in early versions of Cinderella, the stepsisters do engage in foot mutilation. Take a peek at my blog post re: ‘PInk Sneakers’ for that tidbit, and others.


  4. Interesting book and beautiful pictures, Claire. The designs from the book that you have shared are really wonderful – beautiful artistic inspirations.


  5. The is so interesting. When I visited Rome I loved to take pictures of the shoes in the window displays, they were stunning. In Buenos Aires, the same. I wouldn’t be able to walk in any of these, but they are beautiful.


  6. I tried on a pair of Manolo’s while in Savannah, GA. They were $800 of deliciousness. And yet? Soooooo uncomfortable! I could never spent money for a pair of comfortable shoes, let alone an uncomfortable pair. If I ever get a pair, I shall treat them like works of art: to be admired but not used.


  7. My mother has a pair (which she can no longer wear due to knee surgery) but they are so beautiful to look at, true pieces of art. I think it felt the same as wearing beautiful jewelry.

    Your daughter’s book looks lovely.


  8. Well since you asked, next time you’re on Twitter, take a peek at my profile photo — a jean jacket (with beautiful embroidery of books on the back — hence, my book jacket?;-), and a pair of tie-dyed summery Manolos slung over my shoulder. And I did buy the book for my daughter, who has Manolos, too, courtesy of an uncle who likes to buy her pretty things. It should lift her spirits . . . until her cast comes off.


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