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Edited by on October 25 2011 at 1:11 PM

Manolo Blahnik may be the master of heelery — though Christian Louboutin and his non-trademarked red sole has been keeping in step — he hasn’t always had complete control of his craft. Blahnik relates to Newsweek how a pair of shoddily-made shoes made his career. 

Blahnik on His Favorite Manolo Mistake

The first time I had a major mistake was due to my inexperience. In 1972 I was invited by Ossie Clark, one of the biggest designers on earth, to do this collection at the Royal Court Theatre in London. I made these divine, fabulous heels. I think it was my first shoe, actually. They were royal-blue suede with acid green inside, and a sole made of crepe rubber, which is beautifully white — meanwhile, stunnsies —  It’s like walking on snow, but in rubber.

For the heels not to bend, they needed a steel spine inside. I didn’t realize that. So here we are. The fashion show started. Everybody in London was there. It was extraordinary to see all these models coming down the runway. I looked down and saw all the shoes going—boom, boom boom! The heels were moving around and bending. The models were moving in such a strange way.

It was humiliating for me to see what happened at my first fashion show. But when it ended, people came up to me and said, “Congratulations. This is divine! Those shoes are great. It’s sexy. Blah blah blah.” I didn’t see it that way—I thought it was a horrible thing.

But people loved it. People thought, “How strange. How original.” Mr. Clark was in heaven. Even Cecil Beaton, the English photographer, said to me, “Oh, you do create some strange movements.” And indeed, it was strange. I think they liked it because of the way the girls walked, so insecure and swaying around in the bottoms.

As a result of this happy accident, Blahnik became a perfectionist and as he put it “very painful to deal with” when making shoes. I’m assuming the pain comes from jamming a stiletto into the eye of an errant worker for not living up to his strict standards. But that’s how you become the best: bloodshed. [Daily Beast]


Story by Lester Brathwaite

I was center square from 1969 to 1978, during which I perfected the art of the zing as well as a crippling cocaine addiction. Bea Arthur was responsible for both. @LesFabian lester at