know your leg­ends

The king of shoes turns his gaze to­wards the male gen­der

#Legend - - CONTENTS / JULY | AUGUST -

King of shoes Manolo Blah­nik turns his gaze to­wards the male gen­der with a new store in Lon­don

FOR A MAN revered as the king of shoes by the global fash­ion cognoscenti, Ca­nary Is­lands-born Manolo Blah­nik's de­but in fash­ion was hardly aus­pi­cious. The ac­claimed de­signer started mak­ing clothes in 1972; Vogue ed­i­tor Diana Vree­land pro­nounced his de­signs aw­ful and sug­gested he make shoes in­stead. And so he did – but for men. A year later, find­ing the task too con­ven­tional and re­stric­tive, Vree­land sug­gested Blah­nik switch to women's shoes. Noted. He de­signed pairs for Bri­tish de­signer Ossie Clark; two years later he was the first man to grace the cover of UK Vogue. And the rest is his­tory.

Manolo Blah­nik: The Art of Shoes at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto is a stun­ning retrospective by one of the world's most in­flu­en­tial fash­ion fig­ures. Along with guest cu­ra­tor Cristina Car­rillo de Al­bornoz, Blah­nik – who is still the cre­ative direc­tor and chair­man of his pri­vately run fam­ily-owned firm based in Lon­don – has hand-se­lected close to 200 shoes and 80 orig­i­nal draw­ings epit­o­mis­ing the essence of his work. Much of his con­tem­po­rary mythol­ogy stems from be­ing the go-to brand for Sex and the City's Car­rie Brad­shaw and his de­signs for Sofia Cop­pola's Marie An­toinette.

Blah­nik's story has kept step with to­day's re­tail rush – iron­i­cally, given his ori­gins, he will open his first men's shoe store in Lon­don's Burling­ton Ar­cade in July. His brand has 290 points of sale in 33 coun­tries, with free-stand­ing stores in cities in­clud­ing Lon­don, New York, Hong Kong, Dubai, Madrid and Moscow. There is a newly launched e-com­merce plat­form with Far­fetch, and in Asia, his com­pany has part­nered with the Blue­bell Group to ex­pand in mar­kets, start­ing with Ja­pan, Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore.

Mean­while, the Vogue con­nec­tion en­dures. US Vogue ed­i­tor-in-chief Anna Win­tour says she “can't re­mem­ber the last time I wore any­one else's shoes.” Blah­nik made a pair of sling­backs for Win­tour in 1994 which she has worn in nu­mer­ous it­er­a­tions since. Cross­ing bound­aries be­tween fash­ion and art, Blah­nik still makes ev­ery pair of his shoes. “I think of each new sea­son as an evo­lu­tion, not a change in style,” he says. If footwear is ev­ery stylista's fetish pur­chase, then Blah­nik's largely to blame. The leg­end con­tin­ues.

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