André Leon Talley, Isaac Mizrahi, Charlotte Dellal and More Big Names on Manolo’s Magic

Friends and fashion stars sound off on the magic of Manolo Blahnik — our cover star this week — and his incredible longevity in the footwear world.

Isaac Mizrahi, designer

“When I started doing my own line [in 1988], one of the first things I did was call Manolo and say, ‘Make me a hush puppy.’ They were the most glamorous hush puppies I’ve ever seen in my life. The season he made his Pilgrim mules, the collection was a big bomb — except for that shoe.”

Joan Burstein, founder, Browns

“It must have been in the late ’60s when Manolo came into our lives. We had opened a shop on Kensington High St. [in London] called Feathers, and this charming young man applied for a position. At that time it was a trendy boutique selling French merchandise. As Manolo spoke French as well as Spanish, we put him in charge of organizing the must-have of the moment, Newman Jeans. Manolo’s job was to call his customers as soon as deliveries arrived, making him popular with the most attractive people in London. He is one of the most humble, talented and charming men that I’ve had the pleasure of calling a friend.”

Neil Clifford, CEO, Kurt Geiger

“He is the king, the master, the Obi-Wan Kenobi, the undisputed Elvis of shoes. Whenever we meet, it is inspiring to just sit and listen to a genuine genius in action. Our companies have a real depth of respect for each other. It is completely refreshing that 80 percent of the dialogue is solely about product and creativity, not sell-through and EBITDA.”

Manolo Blahnik in 1975
Manolo Blahnik in 1975.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

André Leon Talley, longtime Vogue editor and author

“I first met Manolo on Fire Island. I was so impressed with his clothes. He had beautiful periwinkle blue linen lace-up oxfords, celery green oxfords, pomegranate oxfords. Some of the best times I had with him were in Bath, [England, where the designer still has a home]. He is a fabulous entertainer and raconteur. At Paloma Picasso’s wedding party, Manolo was just amazing, dancing on the balcony with Tina Chow. He is a man who will never stop. He’s never out of breath. It’s 2017, and his career is extraordinary.”

Hai Chung, senior buyer, women’s shoes, Barneys New York

“He came to the Barneys New York store on Madison Avenue [more than 10 years ago] to launch his new book with us. I remember one of the rst things I noticed about him was his bright, colorful socks — which I now know is a signature element of his wardrobe. The thing that stays with me about Manolo was just how easygoing, gracious and charming he was to all of his guests at that book signing. He signed countless books and every shoe, whether it was a new or old style. And his only special request was Hershey’s chocolate kisses!”

Ken Downing, SVP and fashion director, Neiman Marcus

“I remember the first time I met him in [the late ’80s]. I had long blond hair and was working at I. Magnin in San Francisco. My roommate was an assistant shoe buyer. He told me, ‘You have to meet Manolo. He is over the top.’ I entered the shoe department and saw this effusive gentleman. He was anticipating meeting me and recognized me because of my hair. Fashion is known as an industry of shy individuals who don’t want to go boldly out in the world. Manolo learned early in his career that you had to go out and meet the women — and eventually the men — who were shopping. When women met him and his big personality, they fell in love with his shoes and what he created. We were the first luxury retailer to go online 17 or 18 years ago, and we were all sitting around a huge conference table talking about the launch. The question was: Will women pay $600 for Manolo Blahnik shoes? When we went live, the first responses came from women buying [Blahniks].”

Manolo Blahnik shoes
Marie Antoinette styles by Manolo Blahnik.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, celebrated stylist

“He’s so smart, and we have a lot of fun speaking about people. It’s not mean, but he’s so sharp. He’s more energetic than a lot of young people. He has a lot of passion, he loves what he does, and he is real.”

Charlotte Olympia Dellal, designer

“I was very lucky that my mother [Andréa Dellal] had a wardrobe full of Manolos. They were my first insight into beautiful high heels. When I went to Cordwainers College to study footwear, I got a little Yorkie and named him Manolo after the one and only. Shortly after starting my brand, I was invited to do a shoot with him for a magazine at his shop off Kings Road. I was a little starstruck.”

Want more?

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