Blahnik thinks that social media hampers creativity

Manolo Blahnik: The Art Of Shoes, featuring shoes, designs and sketches by designer Manolo Blahnik, has travelled to museums such as the Hermitage (above) in St Petersburg, Russia.
Manolo Blahnik: The Art Of Shoes, featuring shoes, designs and sketches by designer Manolo Blahnik, has travelled to museums such as the Hermitage (above) in St Petersburg, Russia.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Manolo Blahnik: The Art Of Shoes, featuring shoes, designs and sketches by designer Manolo Blahnik (above), has travelled to museums such as the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia.
Manolo Blahnik: The Art Of Shoes, featuring shoes, designs and sketches by designer Manolo Blahnik (above), has travelled to museums such as the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TORONTO • Any devotee of the television series Sex And The City (1998 to 2004) knew who Manolo was and why Carrie happily blew thousands of dollars on his shoes.

For those who did not follow in the character's footsteps and are in the dark, Manolo is footwear designer Manolo Blahnik, 75.

Born in the Canary Islands to a Spanish mother and a Czech father, he studied art and languages in Geneva before moving to Paris and working as a theatre set designer.

In 1970, Ms Diana Vreeland, who at the time was editor-in-chief of American Vogue, encouraged him to design shoes.

He has since made many strides, with a standalone boutique opening in Marina Bay Sands here this month.

Over in Toronto, Canada, 200 of his designs, shoes, boots and sketches have gone on display in a show called Manolo Blahnik: The Art Of Shoes at the Bata Shoe Museum. It runs until Jan 6.

The following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Blahnik, whose customers include the just-married Meghan Markle.

How has the exhibition been received so far?

The show at the Hermitage in St Petersburg in Russia was the first one they have done focused on fashion and on shoes. I feel very proud of that, but was also nervous.

An incredible amount of people came, old and young. They saw the shoes as objects, not as a shoe. I found them much more observant of the work than other Europeans.

I was shocked, but also inspired to have a reaction like that. Russia really was the most interesting, as this kind of exhibition is unusual for them. They even wrote me poems in Cyrillic.

Do you enjoy meeting the public at these shows?

I do think I owe people this moment of contact. I like to meet people. I like to see their reaction.

This is the only way to share with people what I do. To give them some pleasure. Every day should be fun in your work.

Tell us about some of the designs in the show.

The idea for the thigh-high Rihanna boots came to me from a visit outside Paris. I saw some fishermen in the river with boots that high, so I did it in satin.

I see something no one else does.

The Ossie Clark shoes from 1971 are my favourite - ivy green with ivy leaves going up the leg. It includes cherries, something I am still doing.

I love cherries. I put them everywhere.

What inspires you?

Galleries, museums, the world. I am very curious. I am a museum addict. It is like a drug to me.

In New York, I love the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, which is right next to our office.

But my favourite is the British Museum in London. I love the huge rooms filled with Greek statues.

What tools do you use? Camera? Instagram?

I am a visual person so I remember what I see. I do not even do mood boards.

I think social media is very, very dangerous for creative people now. The Internet does not do anything for me.

How has your work evolved over 45 years?

If I think I have done a design before, immediately it is out.

I try to edit myself when I see something I have done before.

I might try using new materials, like titanium or PVC.

I use all the new materials. I am now using farmed crocodile from Louisiana. I love it.

Which current shoe designers do you admire?

I am a victim of the old ways.

I was distraught when (fashion designer) Azzedine Alaia died (in November last year). It is a very, very short list of designers.

I have been trying to tell people that success in this world is not something (that comes) quickly.

But Pierre Hardy (who has designed men's and women's shoes for Hermes for more than two decades) - that boy is incredible. I adore him.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2018, with the headline 'Blahnik thinks that social media hampers creativity'. Print Edition | Subscribe