As Manolo Blahnik’s Hangisi shoe turns 10, FN caught up with the designer himself to get the scoop on his now-legendary style, beloved by “Sex and the City” character Carrie Bradshaw and millions of other fans.
THE HANGISI CRAZE
“It’s torture — it’s a horror story. It just goes on and on,” he joked about the Hangisi obsession. “It’s one of those things that I cannot explain, but I do thank God for it. I never do things thinking they are going to be iconic. It was just a coincidence.”
HOW THE SHOE HAPPENED
“I was in Palermo in Italy visiting an exhibition by the Italian portraitist Giovanni Boldini,” Blahnik explained. “He painted European society ladies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and I noticed some of them had buckles on their shoes.” There are also echoes of the traditional North African baboosh slippers, immortalized by the French artist Eugène Delacroix. These appeared in the latter’s famous “Women of Algiers,” he recalled, noting mischievously that they were “in a state of ecstasy in a harem.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
As for the actual word “Hangisi,” it means, “Which one?” in Turkish. The designer chose it, he said, because he thought it sounded romantic. In retrospect, though, with the 100 plus iterations created over 10 years, the name seems spookily apposite.
Mr B (that’s Blahnik, not Big) is still slightly flummoxed by the quasireligious zeal of the style’s aficionados. He’ll never forget the time he saw a lady wearing a Hangisi mule on the beach at Capri. “It was a little too much,” he deadpanned. “I don’t think they go well with water.”
THE BIGGEST HANGISI FAN
Blahnik recalled a woman he met during a public appearance in America’s Deep South: “You know, she said to me, ‘That shoe has almost ruined my life,’” he observed. “She’d bought 55 pairs in all the colors. I thought it was a little obscene, but it was funny. She’d have bought more, but we didn’t have any more to sell her at the time.”
The “Sex and the City” placement happened organically, he revealed, because both Candace Bushnell, the inspiration for Bradshaw, and costume director Patricia Field were long-term Blahnik fans and already brought the shoes on regular basis. The 10th anniversary Hangisi capsule — four styles in three heel heights — is New York-inspired, albeit with a Viennese twist. The “cosmopolitan” cocktail glass print is also a nod to Koloman Moser, Austrian graphic artist and leading light of the Vienna Secession movement.
X MARKS THE SPOT
A favorite, however, involves an embroidered map of New York exclusive to Blahnik’s Big Apple boutique. It features landmarks such as Central Park and Washington Square with the brand’s West 54th Street store bang in the middle of the buckle. “New York has always had a magical appeal,” the designer said.