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?