Insider: Royal Speculation… Blake’s Big Secret

London Calling
While the mood in Paris was marred by scandal this season, the spirit across the Channel was decidedly more upbeat. Much of the buzz centered around the recent opening of Harrods’ new art-deco shoe salon (at left) and the upcoming debut of Nicholas Kirkwood’s first store on trendy Mount Street.

The London crowd also is gearing up for the 2012 Olympic Games. “The U.S. is excited about the royal wedding. Over here, we’re excited about the Olympics,” joked Stephen Rubin, chairman of The Pentland Group.

But there’s still some friendly competition when it comes to Kate and William’s upcoming nuptials. At FN’s cocktail party at The Dorchester on March 10, guests — including big names such as Kurt Geiger’s Neil Clifford, Georgina Goodman and Galahad Clark — pondered who Middleton might wear on the big day. Beatrix Ong, who is using the tag “recently royal-approved” on her Twitter page, is one name who has been discussed. But Goodman said it’s more likely someone who’s staying mum on the topic. “Anyone who talks about it isn’t the one,” she explained.

When it comes to footwear royalty, there’s still only one designer who rules: Manolo Blahnik. Goodman recalled the first time she met Blahnik, while her PR guru, Leslie Whittaker, reminisced about her days working with the designer. New footwear talent Sultan Al-Darmaki also talked about his admiration for Blahnik. But it wasn’t all about the Brits. American shoe kings Kenneth Cole and Sam Edelman stopped by the party on their way to dinner at the hotel’s trendy Shanghai Tang restaurant.


Manolo’s Musings
When you’ve been designing shoes for almost 40 years, it’s hard to get excited about every collection. But Blahnik is clearly energized about his fall ’11 line. “There are four styles I really love, and that’s unusual,” the designer (at right with two of the looks) told Insider over lunch in London.

He also reminisced about his favorite film flicks and footwear hits, like the “Campari” Mary Jane, which was made famous by “Sex & The City” and is in the spotlight again this year, thanks to a collaboration with jewelry maker Tous. New silver and gold pendants modeled after the shoe will go on sale later this month, and Blahnik’s niece and deputy managing director, Kristina Blahnik, will be in New York on March 31 to fête the debut with U.S. chief George Malkemus and Madame Tous.

Blahnik himself will arrive stateside in May, when he will receive the André Leon Talley lifetime achievement award at the Savannah College of Art & Design from his good friend at Vogue.


Surprise Party
Blake Mycoskie is a man of mystery. When Insider caught up with the Toms Shoes founder in New York last week, he hinted that big news is on its way for the brand. Sure enough, the secrecy continued in Austin the next day, where Mycoskie gave the keynote speech at South by Southwest (at right). A locked box was placed on stage, containing the next chapter of the company’s one-for-one model. “It’s a new concept,” said Mycoskie, remaining quiet on further details, although the brand did reveal that more boxes will soon roll out in additional locations to spark curiosity before the big reveal in June. Also upcoming for Toms is the fourth annual One Day Without Shoes, which, for the first time, will involve Fortune 500 companies such as Google and Microsoft. “It’s going to be much bigger than last year,” Mycoskie said of the April 5 event, adding that supporting a good cause can be messy business. “I biked to work [last year] and I was extremely dirty by the time I got home.”


Making Partner
Aldo is getting some additional fashion cred. The company’s second collaboration with ready-to-wear designer Julian Louie is taking off — the two wedge styles in four colorways are now in 11 stores for two weeks before rolling out to 200 stores nationwide. And although Louie has made a mark with his eponymous apparel line, he’s all about the footwear. “Shoes are the starting point of my collection,” said Louie, who was in New York last week to celebrate the partnership. The designer also has gotten the thumbs up from the brand’s creative director, Douglas Bensadoun (at left with Louie). “Julian is fresh, young, talented and has the same love for fashion as we do,” he said. Elle creative director Joe Zee was also on hand to support Louie, as the catalyst for the collab. After spotting the show-stopping shoes at Louie’s presentation, Zee tweeted his praises and asked followers to raise their voices if they wanted them made. After an overwhelming response, production with Aldo quickly got under way. “[Fans] all decided they loved them,” Zee said.


Nate’s Take
Nate Berkus is making a statement. The interior designer — and new talk show host — has been tapped as honorary chair for next Monday’s Jeffrey Fashion Cares event at the Intrepid in New York, but it isn’t his first brush with activism. Berkus (at right, on set) recently ran an episode about a gay middle school student who committed suicide after years of being bullied. “Events like [Fashion Cares] show the world — especially teens and those who feel lost or cast out — that there is a community that’s vibrant and accepting,” said Berkus, noting the event benefits charities including Gay Men’s Health Crisis and Lambda Legal Fund. “We’re showing them they have a place in this world where they belong.”

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