I wanted a shot of Manolo and his niece Kristina, but the great man insisted I join the photo. Who was I to say no?
Photograph by Jenny Dyson
A fun morning for a Friday. After a visit to Spanish designer Emilio de la Morena to learn more about him and his work, (will post later) I popped along to Liberty to see Manolo Blahnik who was presiding over The Heritage Suite of the building with his Autumn/Winter range. Normally we would view his new collections at his store on Old Church Street. Today we were invited to Liberty.
What was going on?
"There is a reason we are here", confided a wonderfully chic, aristocratically tall young woman who turned out to be Kristina Blahnik, the daughter of Manolo's sister Evangeline. Another Blahnik! Who knew? This can only be a fabulous thing, as anyone who knows Manolo can testify.
Turns out Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye the charming CEO of Liberty came up to Manolo at Claridges last October to pay homage to the great shoe designer and they ended up talking shop. After a pot of English tea, it was decided - Manolo Blahnik was to open a pop-up shop in Liberty during London Fashion Week this coming September. Next thing Ed Burstell, the fashion director of Liberty got involved, and before anyone knew it Manolo Blahnik's pop-up shop was staying not a week as initially planned, but for a three and a half month run until Christmas!
Cue an explosion of creativity from Mr Blahnik who is only just recovering from a fall in snow and ice outside his Chelsea store in December. Manolo has (so far) designed three new Liberty prints. He has, he tells me, long been a fan of the Liberty print, they have been used in many a shoe interior. Manolo is also creating special products for the store, and his new collection includes several exclusive colourways, styles and fabrications that will be available only at Liberty. I have never seen Ed Burstell so excited about a collaboration. He was hopping from foot to foot with excitement when he came to view the range.
Ed Burstell with one of his favourite Manolo exclusives. "This is a shoe with two looks," said Kristina Blahnik "it's an elegant high heel and a fashion high heel." The extra piece is a Blahnik version of the shin protection worn by Polo players.
"There will be scarves, cushions, hats, notebooks, Christmas cards, shoes..." says Ed.
"I'm in trauma!" said Manolo to that, waving his hand (the one with the broken middle-finger) around in a mock one-fingered salute. "I am such an obsessive perfectionist. I will be sick with neuroses by September!"
Clearly, Manolo is loving EVERY minute of this. It shows in the collection too, which I was shown through by Kristina Blahnik, who is an architect; "I still have my own practise," she says, "however my focus is now to work with my Uncle. Structure and proportion is my thing. Liberty is amazing again too, no?" I agree.
At this point Manolo spots a smidge of fluff on the Afghani rug and instructs someone/anyone to "get rid of it!" Luckily, the offending fluff is swiftly removed and everyone present finds this funny. So now onto my high-points of the new collection.
Most important to note is the new last. Manolo has crated a new shoe/heel shape. It is beautiful.
Sorry for the quality! The new curvy last is shown in full angular explosion in Manolo's illustration in the background, but these are the real life shoes created using pleated suede in place of elastic.
The "Yeti" group. First created by Manolo for Marni a decade ago, and back by popular demand. On the right is the "Isidora" with a 5cm kitten heel. In the centre the "Tasava" 10cm high heel. In black on the left is the flat "Turisa" boot. Put them with what Karl did for Chanel, and we've nearly got a trend.
Manolo can do elegant fashiony kitten heels better than anyone.
Must learn my camera settings more thoroughly. The building across the road is in focus, not the shoe. *mortified*
The Manolo take on Timberlands above this shot. This shot, the "Carrie" flats worn by SJP's Carrie when she married Big in SATC. I love them; they would make any girl feel like a princess. Also the high heel versions behind. Check out the illustration of the pinks! Also the 1940s model Dovima (see the postcard photograph of her mid-shot) is the inspiration for this group of shoes.
"I designed all this with fantasy in my mind," said Manolo. "You've got to keep the poetry alive. I don't want to lose the poetry."
Bad photography by FEAL.