Behind the scenes

Manolo Blahnik goes for gold with new footwear collection

Spanish fashion designer celebrates landmark 50th anniversary

“Gold!” exclaims Manolo Blahnik, during a phone call from La Palma. Blahnik grew up here, under the sun and by the sea of Spain’s Canary Islands. Today, “Our Golden Year” is what ignited Blahnik’s rallying cry: his treasure chest collection of footwear, unveiled in time to honour 50 years in business.

It’s a golden jubilee of sorts, and one that has seen Blahnik partner with fellow tastemakers – among them designers Ossie Clark, Jean Muir and, more recently, Grace Wales Bonner, plus filmmaker Sofia Coppola – and author designs inspired by literature, art and a colourful cast of muses. Blahnik has told his biography in a feature film; his work has been displayed in galleries and museums, from London’s Wallace Collection to the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Not that he is too concerned with the milestone anniversary. “A milestone? To me, it feels like 50 days that I have been working,” he deadpans. “To me, it’s a very small time. Every collection we do has some gold shoes. It’s nothing new to me.”

Our Golden Year celebrates Blahnik’s five decades of creation with glistening, glowing and even sparkling flourish. To Blahnik, the collection’s richly hued theme provided food for thought and contemplation. “This is not the time to do things like that,” he said. “But, I cannot be unfaithful to myself and do something just because it is more commercial, or because it is not the time. I do what I do, and that’s it. I really like to create some kind of controversy. And I like gold.”

With a Midas touch, Blahnik has cast timeless models – the buckled Hangisi, or the Nadira, a pointed court shoe crowned with an asymmetrical crystal leaf-shaped embellishment – in satins dyed to glisten with a near liquid gold effect. A group of macramé footwear requires golden lurex thread to be woven by hand; elsewhere, a metallic lace effect is inviting to the fingertips. There are golden tassels and feathers, too. “Gold has always been inspiring,” said their creator. 

When working on this collection, Blahnik let his mind wander, recalling personal memories of gold and the golden shoes he previously read about in history books. “I wanted to tell you, the first gold shoes in the world were worn by the Greeks,” he said. “Actors in Greece used to wear huge chunks of gold, very high, to project themselves in the amphitheatre. Then, of course, the Egyptians!”

The “Flequillohi” is a stand-out boot that Blahnik is enamoured with. “I love this shoe,” he said. “I wanted to make it in silk but silk was very frail so we did it in satin silk, which we can double up and which is much stronger. I have never seen one with bells, very practical!”

manoloblahnik.com

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