The night I met Manolo Blahnik was one to remember for lots of reasons.
When I heard he was in discussion with Colin McDowell at the marvellous Design Museum, I simply could not let this momentous fashion collaboration pass me by. My interest in the legendary McDowell’s fashion journalism has picked up pace over the last few months and like many others from the Sex and the City generation, I adored Blahnik’s coveted shoes – this wasn’t just footwear after all, it was art.
I snapped up a ticket and waited with anticipation. As I made my way along Butler’s Wharf that cold night to the beautiful ghost white building, I allowed myself, just for a moment, to feel a little bit like Carrie.
Mr Blahnik did not disappoint. I was left spellbound by the man as well as the shoes. Looking resplendent in a spotted bow tie and amethyst suit, he joined his friend McDowell on the stage to discuss his fascinating life and career to date. He disclosed the inspiration for those exuberant shoes and gave the audience an exciting insight into the Manolo behind the magic.
I sat eagerly in the small and intimate audience as he led me on an educational journey into the gorgeous world of fashion; the moment in time when he was introduced to Diana Vreeland, former editor of US Vogue, in 1971 and was instructed to ‘go make shoes’. In 1972, he worked for Ossie Clark in London where his shoes were sought after by Grace Coddington and Jane Birkin to name but a few and where he collaborated with Jean Muir.
I watched in awe as he sketched incredible designs there and then with the image projected live onto a screen for the audience’s pleasure. My favourite, a beautiful purple court shoe with a huge bow, was drawn with perfectly natural ease and flair. I was mesmerised.
I did not want the discussion to end, but sadly it had to. As the conversation came to a close, I joined a long line of eager fashion fanatics, awaiting the chance to meet him and take away a personally signed copy of his exquisite book Manolo’s New Shoes. After what felt like an hour, at last I found myself facing the great man.
He smiled graciously, a huge warm grin, and thanked me for waiting and coming out into the cold evening to see him. I had purchased two books, with one for my Mum as a birthday present and he signed both, his huge, animated writing leaping off the page. He asked for my Mum’s name and smiled and wrote, Linda, you have a beautiful daughter. I bet he said that to all the ladies, but nonetheless, he charmed me right out of my shoes. He was enchanting.
After dinner, I floated home. On the tube I looked over the sketches in the book, thinking constantly about the great man and what I had learnt that evening. As I slipped dreamily into a taxi, still on a wonderful high and planning just how I could save up to buy those beautiful purple courts, something rather disastrous happened. I misjudged the distance between my head and the taxi door and the two met with a huge CRACK.
The taxi driver asked if I was OK and I laughed it off and said I was and thanked him for his concern. I rubbed my sore head and ignored the pain, not wanting to ruin the wonderful evening I had experienced.
I made it into work the next morning, took some painkillers and battled through meetings and deadlines. It was only when I started to slur my words and experience tingling in my arms and legs that I suspected this wasn’t just the Blahnik-effect. I was rushed into a taxi by my Manager to A&E and after a feel around the large bump on my head, the diagnosis was delivered. Concussion.
I was ordered to stay in bed and rest. No laptop, no Blackberry, no iPhone, books, no nothing. Just sleep. I missed my Christmas party. I lost three days through sleeping. I attended a meeting with my fiancé at the local registry office to serve notice of our impending marriage with hugely dilated pupils and suspiciously black eyes. I tried desperately to remember my own date of birth, let alone his. It took me a good week to recover and to return to a normal state of mind.
So, that is how I met Mr Blahnik and sustained a nasty knock on the head.
I had concussed myself in the blink of a Manolo moment. As I flip through the gorgeous images in my personally signed book, I sigh and think to myself, Nicola, it was worth the bump.