What's it like having Manolo Blahnik as your uncle?
If one woman knows her Manolos better than Carrie Bradshaw, it’s architect Kristina Blahnik, niece of the iconic footwear designer, who recently took on an active design and PR role in her uncle’s company. She first played dress up in Blahnik stilettos at age eight, having discovered a pair of “super-high red patent court shoes” in her size, and remembers bopping with Grace Jones at the Manolo Blahnik store in London. Today, with her partner, Nick Leigh-Smith, she runs a successful London architecture practice, but recently, after the death of Manolo’s mother, she found herself traveling to Milan alone with a bunch of her uncle’s sketches to oversee the development of prototypes for his spring/summer 2010 collection. The line features several high sandals balanced on ultra-skinny heels, and Blahnik said she tackled the task in the same way she would the conception of a building – particularly in the case of one shoe, the Rebord, that’s based on the design of New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
From left: the Rebord; the Entripada
How was it growing up with Manolo Blahnik as your uncle?
He was very much a fashion secret when I was young—very few people knew who he was. Now it’s different. What I find surreal is to have an uncle I genuinely feel is a genius. I have never met anyone in my life as cultured, well read and creatively adept as he is.
What is the best cobbler in London, in your opinion ?
I always go to Chelsea Green Shoe Repairs on Elystan Street.
How do you store your shoes and take care of them?
My shoe cupboard is obsessively organized. I keep all of my shoes in their boxes, which are arranged into styles with a corresponding ‘passport’ picture of them. They always travel in a cloth bag and as soon as the tips look worn they go straight to the cobbler; a worn down heel irreparably damages the shoe, and often a floor.
From left: the Caviara; the Dos
How does your new career compare to designing a building?
The concepts of structure, proportion, detailing and materials – both innovative and traditional – can be applied to all scales, so in terms of design I feel very much at home with both shoes and buildings.
How much are you prepared to suffer for a great pair of shoes?
Not at all! If a pair of shoes is designed and made to the highest quality, then even a towering heel height of, say, 4.5 inches, should be comfortable from day one.
What kind of shoe would you never be caught dead wearing?
Platforms. They are just too bulky and break the proportion of a leg.
Any footwear peeves?
Chipped toenails and bad heels…uncared for tips; I hate it when you can hear the metal clonking on the street.
From left: the Pellux; the Pruneta
Kitten heels are said to be the new big thing for spring. What do you think about this new heel height?
I wear everything from flat to 4.5 inches and kitten heels fall well within that. It is great to be able to run around and still have an elegant shoe to do it in.