I Work For...: Priyesh Shah Is Assistant To Top Shoe Designer Manolo Blahnik: Meet Manolo's foot soldier

Now that the word "Manolos" has become a generic term for a certain type of high-heeled shoe, all of my suburban friends finally understand why I am working for Mr Blahnik.

Nick Hornby talks about Manolos in his novels, and they even featured in the opening credits of Channel 4's Sex and the City, when Sarah Jessica Parker said: "You aren't a Manhattan girl until you've got $400 worth of Manolos."

Yet Mr Blahnik doesn't design solely high heels, he makes shoes for everyone, from the shop assistant who wants to look sexy, the barrister who wants something more severe, to my Mum who likes beautiful shoes to wear underneath her saris. Shoes are the part of your wardrobe which celebrate your independence and spirit.

I met Mr Blahnik in 1994 while organising Antonio Berardi's graduation show at St Martin's, where we both studied fashion. Berardi designed a collection of remarkable beauty and we needed shoes to compliment the clothes.

Being a believer in the "you don't get unless you ask" philosophy, I felt there was nothing to lose in calling Mr Blahnik. He was very much the king of shoes, up there on a pedestal, and yet he took the time to help us out, which was a huge acknowledgment of Antonio Berardi's talent.

I very much helped build up Berardi's business, but last spring we went our separate ways. It was then that Evangeline, Mr Blahnik's sister and business partner, asked me if I would like to join the company. Mr Blahnik was looking for someone who could take the business forward without detracting from what he does as a master craftsperson.

Although he and Evangeline are like chalk and cheese, their upbringing has helped them to work together to develop Manolo Blahnik into a very sound business. Mr Blahnik makes the rest of us look like OAPs because, despite being 55, he has the energy of a 19-year-old. He never takes holidays and spends much of his free time studying culture, from ballet to MTV.

I've been researching his forthcoming book, and it's been amazing to go back in time and see his significance then. For example, he was the inventor of jelly shoes in the Seventies, and long ago anticipated the flat-shoe revival that we are now experiencing.

He may be an ambassador for European design, who receives letters acknowledging his importance from Tom Ford of Gucci and Issey Miyake, but he also recognises the need for a sense of reality in life, which I love - after all, shoes are not going to cure cancer.

In my desire to take Mr Blahnik's creativity forward, I recently inspired him to collaborate with the Royal College of Art and work with their footwear students. He's been excited by the students, mesmerised by their take on things.

Yet while being enthusiastic about London and what it can give him, he has no respect for its lack of morals and manners. With my Asian cultural background, I deeply respect his old-fashioned and gentlemanly qualities. I call him Mr Blahnik, which I think he quietly likes. All he expects from me is honesty, good manners and the ability to have fun. He may get in a rage, but it will last just 10 seconds. He also tells wonderful stories about crazy parties he went to in the Seventies. Yet his ego is so small that he still can't believe people have so much admiration for what he does.

He is sensitive, funny, erratic and naive, but also very sure, and I feel protected in his company. He inspires me constantly.

I've gradually begun to acquire his tastes and obsessions. Every season I gain more and more trust and am given more room to learn the craft. Whenever people in the fashion world acknowledge me as a person and see that I'm not just second best, we make a connection. I receive far more recognition by doing this than I would had I followed my original plan to become a knitwear designer for a big label. And I've been able to meet people I used to dream about, from Anna Wintour of American Vogue to buyers from famous stores.

I've been an adviser and external lecturer at the Royal College myself, but at the moment I prefer to focus on learning more about my work.

It's important to be able to enjoy what you do in this business, but above all you need to be able to earn respect. I am one of the few people who can understand a designer's mind as well as how to run a business.

As Mr Blahnik's assistant and collaborator I work on everything with him, be it design, production, shows or his itinerary. Many people don't realise that behind every great designer is a talented assistant. If young designers ask me for advice, I tell them that in order to be successful they need a Priyesh.

Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits