Manolo Blahnik On Creating An All-Time Classic & Working With Rihanna

Manolo Blahnik Shoes Sketch
Manolo Blahnik at work.
Courtesy of brand.

Manolo Blahnik’s dainty Carolyne slingback does not date. “It’s everywhere, fortunately,” the designer said recently over the phone from London.

This year, Blahnik marks the 30th birthday of the style, which made its debut in collaboration with swan-trepeneur Carolyne Roehm. Here, Blahnik — who is busy working on a film about his life — talks about the making of a timeless shoe and who, according to him, shines bright (like a diamond, in fact) these days.

What was it about Carolyne Roehm herself that inspired you?
MB: Carolyne is beautiful and has a quirky twist with the classics. She was very elegant and young at the time. It only took about four weeks from getting the idea to sending her a pair, and she loved it. The rest is history. We have kept it very much the same. We changed the heel once or twice, but that’s it. We didn’t want to change it too much because it just works. Now we’re celebrating 30 years of selling the same shoe, which is very rare.

Why is it still relevant after all these years?
MB: I can’t believe it myself. It’s still selling heavily. It’s such a simple style. It almost sold out immediately, and it was incredible. I cannot believe it was 30 years ago. Carolina Herrera has always loved that shoe. I don’t know what I’ve done, but shoes that I’ve made from years before seem to still be popular now and still selling. There are shoes that I’ve made for Mrs. [Sarah Jessica] Parker that are still very successful. My shoes somehow keep with the times very well, I’m not sure how. Most of the time shoes only look right for two to three years.

How do you cope with the pressure to be innovative season upon season?
MB: I just go crazy every year coming up with new things. But people turn to what I have done before because they are used to it, it’s comfortable, and I think women really want to have a continuation and consistency, which is so twisted and ever-changing. All the technology and everything, you don’t even know what you are buying. People want to be reassured they are purchasing something that will be OK years from now and looks modern, but they don’t want to be a slave to trends.

Manolo Blahnik Carolyne Shoe The Carolyne style. Courtesy of brand.

What do you make of the current fashion climate that is shifting so rapidly?
MB: Essentially, according to fashion, you should change every two weeks. It’s just far too much now. They are going to have to think hard and fast about this system. I think they are going to do more small collections. We need to find a new way to show things to sell. People are tired, and I find it very repetitive; I’m over these boring fashion shows. I get invited but hate to go. I went to John Galliano’s show last year, but I am really not interested in others. With too much changing, you don’t even know what you see.

You made major news with your Rihanna collaboration. Why was she so appealing to work with?
MB: It’s very interesting to work with young people like Rihanna. I appreciate that she has her own style and is not afraid to wear what she likes. Her aesthetic and bravado are very much visible in our denim collection. I find it ravishing the way she moves. It’s all about how a woman carries herself.

Who else is catching your eye today?
MB: I have many, but I tend to think in terms of antiquity. I really like this lovely girl, Karlie Kloss, who projects what she wears beautifully. No matter who you are or where you are from, it’s your movement. And that girl — wow. We did pictures together two years ago, and I was captivated by the way she moves like a willow.

Do you ever advise women on how to move?
MB: No, I don’t. Some women put on my shoes and I say, “Take it off: You are not made to walk in that kind of shoe. You should wear another style, flatter perhaps.” But some girls put heels on and they really fly, it’s fantastic. They just got it. It’s difficult to explain. I don’t know what it is. The movement.

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