The shoe designer Manolo Blahnik will this autumn become the 12th person to be honoured on the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style, receiving a plaque on the famed Los Angeles shopping thoroughfare and joining the ranks of Donatella Versace, Herb Ritts, Mario Testino, Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford and more.
Blahnik is huge in America where, fashion folklore has it, it is not uncommon for women to hurl themselves at him in adoration, such is the beauty and unparalleled elegance of his designs. But for years now the classic, spike-heeled nature of his aesthetic – and nobody does it better – has not been as fashionable as it was. Yet the belle-laide – and to some people's eyes just plain laide – footwear that has dominated fashion for so long is on its way out.
This turn of events comes, to the minds of many, not a minute too soon. After all, John Galliano has by now taken the rocking-horse platform to its most extreme at Dior, where even the world's most practised women have tottered tentatively down the catwalk at their peril. The Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquière, too, has embellished the biggest, baddest footwear imaginable with everything from bronzed BMX-bicycle chains to shiny Crayola-coloured plastic. Lanvin's Alber Elbaz said he wanted his shoes to look like cars – cue a high-tech engineered fusion of metal, perspex and the like which would make even the fiercest fashion follower blush.
For autumn/winter 2008, footwear is following a more traditionally glamorous route, however. Galliano has ditched the pyrotechnics in favour of still high-heeled (obviously) but only marginally platformed sling-backed designs merely hinting at 1940s-style heaviness. Balenciaga's shoes for autumn/winter are predominantly classic, very sharp and pointy and with a high, skinny heel to match. Over at Lanvin, meanwhile, the black, stiletto-heeled court shoe is centre-stage once more, and a sight for sore eyes it is too.
Alexander McQueen has similarly taken this view. For the first half of his recent show, black, spike-heeled shoes and boots came complete with metal toe-caps – just in case anyone was labouring under the delusion that his heroine was anything approaching passive. For the second half, however, jewelled paper-flat couture slippers with elongated toes were the order of the day.
It almost goes without saying that the aforementioned Blahnik is purveyor of quite the most delicate variations on this particular theme. He used to make pumps for the late, great fashion editor Diana Vreeland who would wear little else. Buy two pairs safe in the knowledge that these particular designs were never meant for anything as banal as walking down Rodeo Drive, for example, or indeed anywhere else one might care to mention.