Manolo Blahnik, whose mother was Spanish and father Czechoslovakian (which helps explain his name), was having such a good time at his first public appearance that he decided he has to get out more, even though it may be difficult.
Blahnik is one of the hottest shoe designers, and among the most expensive, in the world. He lives in Bath, England, but has a store in Manhattan where top New York designers stock up twice a year to accessorize their entire spring and fall ready-to-wear collections with Blahnik styles.
At the last round of shows in New York, models for Carolyne Roehm, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Geoffrey Beene and Isaac Mizrahi were all striding down runways shod in Manolo Blahnik shoes.
He designs special shoes just to go with the collections of Blass and Mizrahi. Blass because their relationship goes back a long way, and Mizrahi because Blahnik says, "he's young and sophisticated and he knows exactly what he wants. I love a mind like that."
Other designers shop his collection, just like the ladies at Neiman Marcus. Retail prices range from about $200 to $600. In comparison, the average cost of a pair of shoes is about $45 to $55, says Ann Aiken of the Western Shoe Assn., which organizes footwear trade shows for the international buying market.
Despite the heart-stopping sales tickets, business is good and George Malkemus the president of the company, is pressing Blahnik to open more boutiques.
But the designer refuses to expand his operation, primarily because he does all of the design work himself and will not hire an assistant.
"I can't cope with hearing their personal problems," he explained. So he goes it alone from Bath, designing two large shoe collections a year and a smaller one for the holiday season.
The eccentric shoe designer was recently in New York to receive the Antonio Lopez Award from the Hispanic Designers, a nonprofit organization that benefits Latino students. Last week he was in Beverly Hills holding court at Neiman Marcus for his adoring customers.
He was positively aglow after he made his debut in the designer shoe salon. Fans had gushed praises and fawned over him for four hours. "I'm very nervous, actually, about all the success," he said. "It's quite frightening, but I'm having a ball."
This season he has cut back on his usual number of frivolous flights of fancy. He made his reputation on bejeweled mules and other highly decorative, hardly practical looks. This season the line is simpler and the decorations fewer, limited to such touches as a rhinestone buckle on a satin sandal, or black ball fringe on a suede pump.