Manolo Blahnik Is a Birkenstock Fan

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Manolo Blahnik.
Manolo Blahnik. Photo: Ouzounova/Corbis

In his dove-gray suit, bow tie, and owlish glasses, Manolo Blahnik looks more like your most stylish college professor than a fashion insider. But evidence of his influence was on the feet of all the attendees at yesterday’s Museum at FIT Couture Council luncheon celebrating his award for Artistry of Fashion. (Past honorees include Carolina Herrera and Michael Kors; Blahnik is the first shoe designer to receive the prize.) BB pumps, slingbacks, and more rococo numbers adorned nearly every society swan in attendance, and Bill Cunningham was on hand to shoot the below-the-ankle street style. True-blue Blahnik wearer Anna Wintour sat by his side, and supporters including Martha Stewart, Ralph Rucci, and Hamish Bowles were also present. Despite the opportunity to rest on his laurels, Blahnik was not in a nostalgic mood. “I never look back,” he told the Cut. Was he aware that the Museum at FIT has a sizable collection of his work? “They do? Oh, I didn’t know, I haven’t seen it.”

Blahnik has said that he considers two inches to be the ideal heel height, but he’s open to more down-to-earth options. He professed ignorance of Tevas, “but I love Birkenstocks.” He had a pair “when I was young. When I was able to have holidays and things like that.” As far as them being elevated to high-fashion status, he was effusive: “Why not, why not? I mean what’s wrong? If it’s good design, it should be elevated to what it is. They’re just beautifully designed, I mean, they’re eternal. As long as they’re eternal, you can have [them] forever.”

What about the other shoe in the news — the Birk’s polar opposite, the Alessandro Michele–designed Gucci loafer lined with kangaroo fur? “It’s nothing new for me. I did — even five years ago — I did a shoe lined with wolf inside,” Blahnik said matter-of-factly. “It was very barbaric. It was very beautiful, actually.” After a little more shoe chatter, the designer excused himself to take in the scenery. “New York is a spectacle to me, always, because you just see so much in two seconds,” he said. “I mean, it’s great.”

Manolo Blahnik Is a Birkenstock Fan