Photography by Pauline Caranton
At a time when fashion exists more than ever as pixels, those who seek to honour handcraft are increasingly unusual. Shoe designer Manolo Blahnik was sketching freehand even before he founded his namesake brand in 1970 and since then has never used a computer for his designs, and has no intention of doing so. Instead, sable brushes and watercolour ink are his tools for creating the fluid lines and strokes now synonymous with his heritage brand.
The 80-year-old visionary also handmakes every sample to ensure each matches his intricate illustrations and plays a decisive role in all parts of the production process in the Manolo Blahnik factory in Italy. As he explains, “The artisans in our factory are some of the most inspiring people to me, and my favourite thing to do in the world is work there –
to get the shape right, explore new heel types, experiment with fabrications.” The labour of the hands and the close degree of onsite attention are a callback to a deliberate, tactile form of working that speaks to Italy’s long history of careful manufacture. They also ensure that each pair of Blahnik’s handcrafted shoes is a reflection on the past, a vision for a beautiful future, but most importantly, an object of desire today. ◉