The quote above is taken from Blahniks first book of drawing published in 2003, of which I obtained a copy for research, he has since regularly published books of his design sketches, the original sketches are valuable works of art in their own right and Blahnik reqularly donates them to charitable causes.
Foreword from Drawings by Anna Wintour (Editor in Chief of Vogue)
“For three decades, Manolo Blahniks shoes have held the fashion world spellbound. His sense of the theatrical wedded to the finest materials and superlative craftsmanship inspire fanatical devotion. Diane Von Furstenberg has more than 80 pairs; Paloma Picasso has been fan since the age of 14; and Sarah Jessica Parker, Anna Piaggi and Kate Moss, to name a few, are fellow addicts. Here, collected together for the first time, are over one hundred and twenty exquisite drawings that Blahnik makes at the outset of the design process. These sketches are executed with such exuberance and deftness that they have become as sought-after as the shoes themselves (they often fetch up to £10,000 at charity auctions). Inimitable in style, these drawings, beautifully reproduced in this book with special inks, vividly convey Blahniks unique vision.” (Manolo Blahník drawings, 2003)
I was particularly interested in Blahniks approach because he adopts a very much hands on process for creating his shoes, rather than be somewhat remote. Merely handing over a concept as many designers do. Rather he uses a wide variety of sources from classical sculpture and painting to inspire his designs which he initially sketches, but then he also hand sculpts prototypes from wood to arrive at the the shapes and forms he wants. Finally decorating them with a wide range of materials to achieve the final result. They are then manufactured in limited quantities, to maintain exclusivity, typically retailing between £500 and £1,000 a pair.
I only discovered as part of the background research that coincidentally he lives in Bath and has created a personal archive of the 25,000 or so shoes he has designed. Now in to his 70’s he is still actively involved in his company and the design of all shoes that bear his name. “I love exaggerated, and I love eccentric, but you must be comfortable. Otherwise it is nonsense. There is nothing charming about a woman who cannot walk in her shoes.” (Cartner-Morley, 2017) I found this an interesting comment as Blahnik has promoted stiletto styles throughout his career but on examination his designs, in terms of height of heels, are less extreme than some which truly appear unwearable and I have the feeling in some case are only created for a particular event and / or celebrity to feed the twittersphere.
In the same interview it was revealed that he is not that interested in business and so for example his company remains privately owned, he refuses to licence his name or designs to mass market outlets as even though this would be very lucrative he prefers to concentrate on the integrity of his design beliefs and maintaining the quality of the final product.
In the gallery above I also looked at the photography employed. The products are the exclusive focus of the images, photographed against plain backgrounds, the images are composed to show the sculptural forms inherent in the designs. after exploring a number of other approaches I eventually adopted a similar approach to my final images i.e. to let let the shoes speak for themselves – albeit wanting to highlight a different aspect, their history and current condition, rather than their aesthetic quality.