Sipping cocktails at home with Her Majesty the Queen earlier this month – as you do – I couldn't help but notice that the very best dressed feet in the room all owed their elegant appearance to none other than Manolo Blahnik.
This, clearly, is far from controversial: few would dispute that Mr Blahnik is the hand behind probably the most beautiful shoes in the world, just as he has been for years. Having said that, the vogue, since the early Noughties, for constructions that have more in common with heavy metal machinery (specifically, cars) than anything previously associated with the dressing of feet, has meant a move away from the delicate aesthetic this particular name is known for. Add to that the (by now frankly common) obsession with VB and her ilk, long wedded to the scarlet flash of the Louboutin sole and a heel that is increasingly high. The latter are extremely easy to copy, however. And while many a plagiarist has tried to recreate the allure of the Manolo Blahnik shoe, none come close to the original article, not least because Blahnik applies his highly idiosyncratic heart and soul to his work.
That is at least part of the reason why more discerning souls have never lost track of Blahnik's designs. French Vogue's Carine Roitfeld is one such, particularly enamoured, by all accounts, with those created by Blahnik for perhaps the most gifted young designer showing in London just now: Christopher Kane. In fact, Blahnik has long worked with such emerging talent, largely out of generosity and a belief in creativity, over and above pure commerce, that is a rare commodity in today's climate.
In the past, Blahnik has worked with Antonio Berardi in his mid-Nineties heyday, Clements Ribeiro and, most famously of all, John Galliano for whom he has created some of the most exquisite and unashamedly indulgent footwear in fashion history.
On a more personal note, regular readers of this column will be aware that this particular fashion follower is more than a little challenged as far as the wearing of high heels is concerned. Paper-flat shoes are the order of the day here – incidentally, Blahnik does those too as made to order by Diana Vreeland, no less, way back when.
Since my teenage years, though, the only heels that have made it into my wardrobe have come courtesy of Manolo Blahnik – both borrowed (oh, all right then, stolen) from my mother and, on the odd occasion, also my own. And that is because although at least some of Blahnik's designs appear to be highly whimsical and more reminiscent of artefacts than mere clothing they are, in fact, entirely functional – that is, you can actually walk in them.
Anyone thinking of investing in the new mid-heel would do well to shop here – nobody does them better. Ditto: tiny-heeled Mary Janes. And finally, of course, Blahnik offers up talon heels aplenty in quite the richest colour palette and choice of materials imaginable. Shoe heaven, then, now as it always has been.