Face to Face
Stairway to shoe heaven: My moment with Manolo
Editors Note: Following a format pioneered in Interview magazine, CultureMap will occasionally seek out a Houston notable to interview a national celebrity. Who better to spend time with Manolo Blahnik than Houstonian Kristi Schiller, who owns more than 350 pair of his shoes? They met recently at Neiman Marcus before he made a personal appearance.
I have met more than my fair share of celebrities in my life but very few go by just one name: Cher, Oprah, Bono, Beyoncé, and Madonna.
Then you have Manolo.
The name is synonymous with art for your feet. I would argue that Mr. Blahnik is responsible for the obsession today’s modern woman has with footwear.
Let me say when I got "the call" about doing an interview with the the Heel Master, I had to ponder whether to pinch myself or squeal with excitement, so I did both! I think the last time I said "yes" that fast, my husband was on bended knee nine years ago when he asked me to marry him. Coincidentally, I was wearing Manolos at the time.
Manolo’s have adorned my feet through all the important events in my life — my engagement, our wedding day, bringing my daughter home from the hospital and her christening. To say I am a huge fan could well be the understatement of the decade.
Like meeting someone from a favorite movie, I walked into the interview feeling like I was reconnecting with an old friend...after all, Manolo had been through everything with me.
We started the interview by discussing his background. Manolo’s father was Czech and his mother Spanish from Santa Cruz de la Palma. His latest book, which he signed that afternoon during an appearance in the Neiman’s shoe department, was dedicated to his late mother who inspired his creativity while he was growing up in the Canary Islands.
I assured him she had to be looking down from heaven — so proud that every woman that tries on his masterpieces feels like a princess, or even magical, like Dorothy in her ruby slippers — even if it's for just a few moments.
Manolo considers the shoes he makes "corsets for the feet" — a foundation for the “architecture of a woman." He personally creates over 600 styles a year (300 for each fall and spring collection) and sketches each pair with a various mood in mind — dainty, racy, sexy or scandalous. "I love a good scandal," he purred.
Manolo became a household name after his shoes were popularized on Sex and the City, but he doesn't consider himself a celebrity. "It reminds me of Lindsay Lohan, which I detest," he said. " I can't stand that word."
Instead he says he is inspired by another type of woman who has made her mark throughout fashion's formidable history. His favorites: Julie Christie, Sophia Loren and Diana Vreeland.
His vice? No champagne or fine wine for him. After finishing a collection, he treats himself to an old fashioned drug-store style milkshake.
"I always celebrate a collection with milkshakes. Definitely milkshakes. Vanilla milkshakes,” he says with a laugh. But he adds that “(good ones) are hard to find in America."
He is intrigued by my iPad with a pink cover but he says he doesn't use Facebook. "You know why? I need to talk to people," he said.
I waited until the very end of our private time to inquire about my very special request. I reminded him that he created dreams for the feet. I took a deep breath and asked him to design for me his first-ever (Texas A & M) maroon crocodile cowboy boots and custom chaps in time for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo where I will show my cutting horse.
He immediately enthusiastically agreed. His excitement had me covered in goosebumps.
Later, in the shoe department, my little 4-year-old daughter, Sinclair, pranced around teetering in red high heels that swallowed her little feet. On the spot — and without my prodding — a smitten Manolo agreed to make her a pair of fire engine red croc kitten heels in just her size.
Suri Cruise, eat your heart out!
A few moments with Kristi Schiller and Manolo Blahnik