The buzzword in women's shoes for fall may be the Louis heel, but Manolo Blahnik says, frankly, it's boring.
"This year I'm trying to get away from Louis heels," the designer said of the mid-height silhouette with a baroque scoop. "I did them three or four years ago, before all those designers like Christian Lacroix."
So now Blahnik, whose design lexicon can influence the look of shoes for several seasons, is on to other things, although he continues to offer the Louis simply because of the demand.
"I still do it because it sells, but personally I'm bored," Blahnik said in a phone interview from his home on the island of Santa Cruz in the Canary Islands, where he was raised.
Blahnik is rather multinational. Half Czech, he holds a Spanish passport but lives most of the year in London and Bath, England. His shoes, considered by hard-core fashion buffs to be among the finest crafted in the universe, are stitched together in Italy. And Blahnik's American customers, including the Madeleine Gallay boutique in Sunset Plaza, represent about half of his international sales.
This season Blahnik believes his seminal shoes are a pump with a 2 1/2-inch "squarish but very thin" heel, and an interpretation of the crepe-sole desert boot, which he first showed to accompany the recent collection of New York design star Isaac Mizrahi. Both shoes are offered in silk faille and suede, in colors ranging from chrome yellow to burgundy and black.
Even if you don't check out the price tags, Blahnik's shoes--he is the first to admit--are pure luxury.
A gold lizard mule with hand-beaded pearls goes for $650; baby-crocodile shoes are $1,200. (Gallay also carries Blahnik's men's line, which is priced similarly.)
Blahnik owners include Princess Diana and Fergie, designer Paloma Picasso and "students at Parsons or a girl at UCLA who buys when the shoes are reduced, reduced, reduced," says George Malkemus, president of Manolo Blahnik U.S.A.
"She can live in Bel-Air on Copa de Oro and not think twice about buying 40 pairs a season, or be a girl who waits for the lowest reduction," Malkemus adds.
No matter what the price, the shoe is a "paramount" accessory item, Blahnik contends.
"Simply because if you have nasty shoes it ruins the whole outfit, even if you are wearing couture from Paris. You can do without a handbag or a ribbon or a jewel. (But) those ugly tennis shoes, such as those girls in New York wear, are disgusting," he states.