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Sole Society

Fashion News

By Tali Jaffe

There are few shoes that are known by first name alone. Choo and Louboutin come to mind, but those surnames followed in the well-heeled footsteps of another talented cobbler—Manolo Blahnik.

Some women cherish their Manolo closet as much as wine connoisseurs do their cellar, noting the vintage and variety. And we all remember the plotlines devoted to Manolos on Sex and the City (arguably some of the better ones).

So it comes as little surprise that Mr. Manolo Blahnik, the Madonna of shoes, has been awarded the prestigious André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award from the Savannah College of Art and Design. And, along with the award—which was presented by ALT himself—an exhibition of Blahnik’s work, "manolo blahnik ... the shoe," is also on view at SCAD’s Gutstein Gallery through July 29.

The exhibition features more than 90 shoes, including prototypes, from Blahnik’s personal archive, gleaning a merger of art and craftsmanship that has become eponymous with his 30-year career.

How did it all begin? In 1972 fashion designer Ossie Clark asked Blahnik to make shoes for his runway show. He created five-inch crepe heels with spines of steel inside. In a panel talk with Andre Leon Talley and Eric Wilson, Blahnik recalled that he worried during Clark’s show about his career in footwear ending because all the models were walking in a strange way, but then he realized people thought it was sexy.

Fast forward 40 years and Blahnik still works out of the same factory in Italy. More impressive still is that Blahnik is solely responsible for the design and prototype of every shoe that bears his name. As documented in photo montages in the exhibition, the designer works alone without apprentices or assistants, he sketches his shoes, chisels the wooden forms on which they are molded and sculpts the heels. He then supervises their production and even sketches the illustrations for his advertising campaigns.

Blahnik is the latest in a long line of fashion icons who have received this award, including Oscar de la Renta, Karl Lagerfeld, Miuccia Prada, Tom Ford, Vera Wang, Marc Jacobs, John Galliano, Isabel and Ruben Toledo and, most recently, Diane von Furstenberg.

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