Sunday, January 6, 2008

Arch Support

Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahnik (Spanish, b. 1942). “Bhutan” Shoe, spring/summer 2006. Black leather with white synthetic thread topstitching and brass hardware. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Manolo Blahnik, 2006 (2006.512.6).

To have an entire category of apparel—in this case, high-fashion shoes—known by one’s given name is a fashion creator’s transfiguration. Even before “Sex and the City” made Manolo Blahnik a household name in this country, Blahniks were collected and coveted by fashionable women internationally. If Carrie in the television series expanded Blahnik’s franchise into the more populist precincts of that medium, it did not change the designer’s impulse to push the boundaries of his work. Blahnik by Boman, the beautiful photographic sampling of his work, describes the extraordinary breadth and range of the designer’s pool of influences. While some of the references are direct, others only obliquely manifest a concept. With this ”no heel” wedge, first explored in his fall/winter 1979-80 collection and repeated in variation over the years, Blahnik conflates a number of references and locates them in the tradition of the isolated kingdom of Bhutan. The steep arch of the eccentric cantilevered sole of the shoe creates the triangulated profile of a “Lotus” shoe, those tiny platformed booties that for centuries covered the bound feet of Chinese women, but it is also a subtle homage to Roger Vivier, who, in the 1950s, shifted the heel to the center of the arch of the foot in one of his designs. For all its vertiginous instability and impracticality, the design is finished with the coarser details of a functional shoe. One imagines that in Blahnik’s fictive Bhutan, like Shangri-la, far above the Himalayan cloud line, even peasant women teeter like ballerinas or Han dancers on such shoes.

This is the kind of work I love to do because it is free from commercial constraints. With shoes like these, I don’t ever think of selling. They just satisfy the creative craving that I get. They allow me to combine different times and places: in this one, for example, I mix the brutality of Etruscan fortitude with a bit of Scottish Highlands and then a touch of the extremities of Celia Cruz, the Cuban singer who I admired so much as a child! It’s completely irrational, I know, but this is the work that keeps me going.

—Manolo Blahnik

Comments (125)

  1. Laura Says:

    I know these shoes are just for the fun of designing but how in the hell could you walk in them??

  2. Laurie Aron Says:

    My first reaction–what charming shoes! But then, he made them non-commercially…does that mean he didn’t test them to see if they’re wearable? What actually happens when you put a pair on? Do you stand balanced as if on high heels, or do you fall down?

  3. jimmy Unger Says:

    hate it

  4. khristina Says:

    so avant-garde…I love it! I would totally wear it, i can almost see myself swirling around in some sort of a native Bhutanese dance or carried around a town hight in the mountains in a procession with one foot dangling out clothed in the “Bhutan.”


    This is a great article.

  6. Krista Beth Says:

    All you can say is “hate it” without justification? This shoe is 3-dimensional art. It appears to be a shoe but a second glance would tell you that this is not an ordinary shoe. In fact, I don’t think I would call it a shoe at all. It is more a sculpture than anything. This “shoe” has transformed the notion of acceptable footwear. With simple displacement, it has taken everything we understand about a shoe and altered it. This, of course, is disconcerting to some but still ingenious design.

  7. Laurie Aron Says:

    I agree with Krista Beth that “hate it” is not commentary, and that the shoe has many attributes of an art form, but fundamentally, Mr. Blahnik makes shoes, albeit with extremely clever artistic ideas.

  8. Jim Says:

    Is a “shoe” without a heel still a shoe?

    Or, is Blahnik’s Bhutan Shoe really a shoe — a pump without a heel or a flat in motion?

    Why do we look at a still life of a shoe and ponder what it would be like to wear, yet never look at a still life of Matisse and wonder “oh, I would love to taste that orange!”

    How much of what we love in “Bhutan Shoe” is what is there vs. what is not there?

  9. julie Says:


  10. Barbara Says:

    I loved the diversity of this exhibit and the accompanying comments. For sure, the next time I dream of Japan, I will wear the Philip Treacy headdress.

  11. Krista Beth Says:

    Jim, that is beautiful.

  12. N7407 Says:

    can i buy it?

  13. Laurie Aron Says:

    Jim & Krista Beth…I guess if we don’t want to taste Matisse’s orange, that makes the shoe fundamentally different than a work of art? (Why is it a still life of a shoe, and not a shoe? I’m quite sure it’s a pair of shoes.) Or is it that a painting is just oil on a canvas, and we’re too sophisticated to be fooled?

    Just to complicate things, in a wonderful show of Manet’s still lifes of fruits and flowers and patisserie in Baltimore a few years ago, I did want to taste and smell!! Particularly this brioche he had stabbed with a rose.

    What of the Matisse show at the Met that included the garments that inspired him and that he had his models wear?

    The line definitely gets blurred.

  14. Tanvi Says:

    Absolutely loved these shoes - made me respect Manolo Blahnik for more as an artist than simply a designer shoes maker. I understand that they were not made to be sold commercially, but what I wouldn’t give to have the chance to try them on. I would assume that the metal sole would provide the feeling of walking on water…. Simply Brilliant.

  15. cmc Says:

    i am sorry but i just cannot see anybody buying these shoes and i am a fashion freak. these shoes need a up date and maybe a heel!

  16. Krista Beth Says:

    Laurie, I agree that the line is blurred but why can’t it be both a shoe and a work of art? I believe that this shoe, like most pieces of art, does it’s job to engage the viewer. It’s interesting to look at but at the same time, we want to know how our Cinderella feet would fit into them. They would be beautiful on a shelf in a manicured sitting area, or on dainty feet navigating the streets of Paris.

  17. Laurie Aron Says:

    Yay Krista Beth! Let’s have our cake and eat it too…in Paris, n’est pas? I’m willing to give the navigating a try, and would (did) marvel at the shoe in a vitrine as well.

  18. Christian Says:

    Walking in this shoe must be something between ballerina, geisha and handicapped. What a great idea!!!

  19. Triple-A Says:

    I like this, but it looks like it can get uncomfortable

  20. Keisha Says:

    The trick is to walk on your toes, not applying any pressure to your heel. Very uncomfortable but youl will make the ultimate fashion statement!

  21. Laurie Aron Says:

    I was suddenly reminded, by an ad in the current W, that Marc Jacobs is hawking a way less artistically pleasing but similarly inspired shoe in which the body of the shoe assumes a high heel, but the heel is attached horizontally, like a balancing platform, to the underside of the instep. it’s more pump parody than work of art.

  22. Lynne Says:

    Did anyone think “pony girl?”…..

  23. Krista Beth Says:

    Yes, Laurie, I’ve seen that and I agree that it is far less pleasing and much less a work of art.

  24. Marissa Klein Says:

    Fashion trurly is cyclical. We now can see what Marc Jacobs muse was for his fall/winter 2008 runway shoes. Who else to better mimic than the master himself, Manolo Blahnik.

  25. Youknowwho Says:

    These shoes are cool… BUT YOU CANT WALK IN THEM. Other wise they look very nice.

  26. Nicole Says:

    I love this shoe! OMG can I try it on? This is truly a work of art by the master himself! It’s very stimulating visually and creatively. Shoes…shoes…shoes!!!!

  27. ChristySfie Says:

    these shoes are so cool! hard to understand at first, but after you get the concept they are awesome! were they on the market or just for runways ?

  28. DavidT. Says:

    The shoe is a clear commentary on how modern women continue to subject themselves to sexist beauty standards by choice.

    As a man, I get to wear comfortable shoes whenever I want. Join me, ladies.

  29. ms. g. Says:

    i’m not exactly certain what this shoe is designed to achieve. why are we celebrating a form of “beauty” that is simultaneously painful and impractical? i realize that beauty in fashion has nothing to do with practicality, or comfort, but shouldn’t one be at least able to function in the piece?

  30. Laurie Aron Says:

    Jim, I just read the thread over (when surely, I should have been doing something else), and noticed your theory of the shoe as a flat in motion. What a great idea! Not a still live but a live in motion!

    But based on my experience of wearing flats, the sole doesn’t move like that when your foot goes into that position, a position my feet most often find themselves in trying to reach something on a high shelf.

    I immediately interpreted the extended piece under the toes as the thing that would enable the wearer to balance and walk, but maybe it’s just the base of the sculpture.

  31. Lily Monir Matini, Esq. Says:

    curious addition
    i can see an Oberlin post modern dance piece scripted for this

  32. Laurie Aron Says:

    Or, Lily, for the long ago Greek Games at Barnard.

  33. Megan Bell Says:

    This shoe is so interesting to me. I love it. I believe that the extended part as Laurie Aron said would enable the person to walk, although it infact could be just a stand for the piece. I LOVE THIS SHOE!

  34. Isabella Says:

    These are the coolest shoes ever! How can you stand up in them?!

  35. m Says:

    Ugh. Yet another man-made pedestal to keep women painfully trapped in place.

  36. Jim Says:

    Thanks for that follow-up, Laurie. I agree that it probably wasn’t intended to be a flat in motion, but perhaps it was the remnants of a woman who stepped in some melted tar on East 82nd Street on a hot summer day — not a natural motion, but….; ? } Guess I was exploring the notion that the shoe comes with such deep emotional connection that when confronted with the blurred lines of the fashion item and the art, these emotions also blur….

  37. Laurie Aron Says:

    Yes, Jim, there is something about that upward LIFT that gives the shoe an emotional value, which is why, in my humble opinion, flats can never be sexy. Not that every woman has to want to wear shoes to be sexy all the time or ever.

    Of course, I meant still liFe vs. liFe in motion. Real live typos.

  38. Lyris Says:

    I just can’t figure out how you wear this…

  39. Isabela Says:

    I don’t get how you could EVER walk in these? I would get so confused by walking in them…

  40. Tim Says:

    It’s seriously making me consider getting into shoe fetish mode.

  41. DoDo Says:

    Somebody found a black heel yesterday in the Central Park?? Please call…

  42. Gloria Says:

    He has the perfect reason for creating this — just because it pleases him, it has no purpose other than to pool random abstract designs — SURPRISE!

  43. Joanne Says:

    I would like to try these on.

  44. marina urbach Says:

    “How much of what we love in “Bhutan Shoe” is what is there vs. what is not there?”
    Very well put. What is not there is as important as what is there. This is perhaps how meaning is constructed. Visually this piece is very beautiful. The question is not “what is this shoe designed to achieve, is it practical, comfortable and functional?
    This object is a product of the artist’s imagination. He had a dream and produced it in a tangible way for us to see. Perhaps if we call it an object, rather than a shoe, we will get it.

  45. brittany Says:

    i love the way the design confuses me and yet i love to look at it and wonder.

  46. hannah Says:

    They seem impractical, and isn’t fashion truly decided by the masses?

  47. kecya Says:

    Marc Jacobs has one very simillar in this collection.
    I really like it ! it’s very inventive but, I ‘m not sure if I can Walk in those shoes.

  48. Laurie Aron Says:

    Gloria, “just because it pleases him” sounds like reason enough!

    Hannah, I think what large stores and chain stores stock is decided by the masses to the best of the stores’ ability to forecast it, but this stuff so close to art it might as well be is Fashion as driving force to perceiving apparel differently, and some of it will trickle down and some of it won’t, or will only appeal or be affordable to a small audience.

    Marina, picking up on Jim’s comment on what what we love in the shoe isn’t there, at least tangibly–I do see that. The potential energy, the just having moved/about to move, the emotion in its combination of strength and fragility.

  49. marina urbach Says:

    “The potential energy, the just having moved/about to move, the emotion in its combination of strength and fragility.” Very, very well put. Meaning is “delayed”,
    but it is there.

  50. Christa Deleon Says:

    The “Bhutan” shoe made by manolo blanik is extremely couture “one of a kind” although im not sure how someone could walk without a heel?..this is very interesting and inventive.

  51. Anna F. Says:

    These shoes are extremley interesting and will fly off the shelves for any woman with a passion for shoes, no fear of heights (tall stiletto heels), and has the knowledge of how to walk about the city properly in heels, or in this heels at all. I love the creativity and how more designers, like Blahnik, are experimenting with archectural heels and apparently, none.

  52. Ana Santos Says:

    Manolo said that he didn’t think of sales when creating this shoe, which to me is more of an artwork rather than an accessory. This creation should allow us to admire and respect Manolo not only as a designer but also an artist. His ability is not limited to the traditional concept of shoes, in addition his creativity and passion for what he does is mirrored in this piece of art.

  53. Angelica Cruz Says:

    I found this shoe very interesting because it had no heel but is still elevated from the floor. The shoe has brass decoration on it with wrapped straps around the front of the foot and somewhat around the ankle. A piece of the sole is sticking out from underneath the heel a little which i found very clever because at first sight it was hard to believe how a women could balance. It would have been more interesting if the shoe came in more vivid or flamboyant colors. I was really impressed with shoe and would definitely wear it.

  54. Amy Denise Says:

    I just want so badly to try them on!

  55. Cynthia Says:

    Physics meets Fashion….Issac Newton would be proud.

  56. Danielle Says:

    I really really liked these shoes and they look like a new hip fashion! i would love to try them on and see if they actually functioned as shoes.

  57. Julie Says:

    These shoes are really cool and I think the idea that the shoe doesn’t have a heel is very innovative, but how do you walk in them?

  58. gobblegook Says:

    its really cool looking, but are you really suposed to wear them??????

  59. james Says:

    i like the creativity in these shoes. I makes you imagine what it would be like to attempt walking in them.

  60. Miley101 Says:

    So cool how there is no heel. Do you think it is difficult to wear?………….. Who wore that shoe and where? ………

  61. Christina C. Says:

    These are the most interesting shoes I’ve ever seen, and honestly speaking, if I had the money, i would buy them. However, I’m not very fond of the ballerina shoe-like style of the shoe. Maybe if it were one of the Sex in the City Carrie style shoes with that heel, they would be more appealing to me. And also, I wouldn’t expect a shoe like this from Manolo Blahnik because they’re shoes are more classic and simple. But I would love to walk the town in those for about 3 minutes.

  62. Beverly Says:

    Quite Unique. I find the shoe gender specific. Would there be a masculine equivalent (perhaps with a lower heel)?

  63. Laurie Aron Says:

    Thank you Marina! (delayed)

  64. Elle Says:

    this particular designed shoe has been making various comebacks into fashion. At first, it appered in one of Dior’s spring/summer collection a couple of years ago in a green healless design that consisted of a heal in iron running a little bit longer out from the toe support. And the second time around in the most recent case, it came strutting down on Marc Jacobs runway show for the spring collection.

  65. Erika Says:

    Unless Manolo Blahnik invented an invisible heel these shoes are pointless

  66. veronica Says:

    these are the most interesting pair of shoes ive ever seen besides the “niomi’s nemesis” i looked at these shoes and thought, how can you walk without heel? i believe in ballerinas balencing on their toes but this is crazy.

  67. ALEXANDRA :) Says:

    DEFINITELY THE WEIRDEST SHOES I’VE EVER SEEEN ..but theyre still coool .! :)

  68. Sierra Says:

    These shoes are really awesome there strange and “out there” but they totally rock!!

  69. Amari Says:

    these are they weirdest designs but strangely cool!

  70. amari Says:

    Those weird shoes rock!

  71. Amari Says:

    the wierd shoes rocked!! LOL

  72. Amie Says:

    These shows are an engineering feet I love that instead of a heel there is an extention of the sole of the shoe to allow you to balance. I have a pair of shows that have an extention from the sole and instead of a heel this extends to the back of the shoe into a metal circle and so you can walk but you have a little bit of a bounce in your step I can imagine these shoes to be similar. I just wish I could have tried them on.

  73. Nicole Says:

    Blahnik shoes set trends for the shoe industry. He is known for sophisticated stilettos coveted by every woman in the world. These designs inspire shoe brands to follow his style. This no-heel shoe style exemplifies his influence. Models from last season’s fashion shows such as MJ worn similiar styles. Bravo Mr. Blahnik for being such a fashion influencer!

  74. robin Says:


  75. DSS Says:

    that looks painful to walk in. but its a cool idea

  76. Sara Barr Says:

    One of my first thoughts upon viewing this shoe was its impressive uniqueness; however, I noticed today that Marc Jacobs has done a very similar shoe for his Spring 2008 line. I wonder if we will be seeing heel-less shoes at Target soon?

  77. Tyler C. Says:

    When I first viewed these Manolo Blahnik shoes at the Met, I had to figure out how it was possible for a woman’s heel to be that high without a support of a high heel. It made me think of how much effort went into constructing the. There was so much science that went into making them. Although I think they are genius, I am not a fan of them. And many designers are replicating Blahnik’s heel-less high heel style, which I hope does not last long. When a woman walks by in a pair of Manolo Blahniks, not only do they make her feel fierce, but they make her the envy of every woman who sees her. I think that they shoes should just stick to the runway.

  78. Sorya Says:

    Manolo, Manolo and Manolo you’re the best…

  79. A.Radier Says:

    I love that Marc Jacobs borrowed the same desgin and made a shoe just like it that I saw in Bazaar the other day!! Manolo is the man!!

  80. LoRe Says:

    i LoVe iT!!!

  81. Raymond Robinson Says:

    I love these shoes there so beautiful.

  82. lorenzia balmer Says:

    this shoe is amazing .i never seen anything like it before.

  83. Noemy Says:

    How to wear the shoes? The concept of Blahniks is art, not everyday wear.

  84. Matilda Says:

    While the lack of a sturdy heel makes this design less than practical, I think the point is less about utility and more about the freedom it represents. For a woman to be able to feel as powerful in this heel as she does in a more standard version of the high heel is extraordinary. The sky really is the limit.

  85. R and R Says:

    These shoes are totally stupid. How are you meant to walk in them???!!

  86. Calvin Says:

    One of my favorite items in the entire exhibit..eventhough they are not practical.

  87. noemy ferreira Says:

    this are truly a work of art, i dont mind not knowing how to walk in them.

  88. Freddy Says:

    I’d gladly give up my right arm for these shoes if I’d drag!

  89. isabella Says:

    when you work to make comercial shoes you have to take a break to make something extravagant and beautiful, i would think that he would still do testing to see if the shoes are “walkable” they seem to be perfectly balanced
    al it would take is some practice

  90. Jessica Says:

    I like the fact that we are able to see and appreciate this form of art. Unfortunately, looking at fashion shows on tv leaves viewers without an understanding of the craftmanship behind the pieces.

  91. Anna Says:

    The shoes look amazing, I would wear them in an instant if they had a heel. But, how would you walk in a shoe with that high of an arch with out a heel on the back? Is it even possible to walk in shoes like that without falling over? I would like to see if anyone is able to walk in shoes such as these.

  92. Brynn and Eva Says:

    We love these shoes!! It is so awesome that the shoe has no heel but it does.

  93. brynn and eva Says:

    we loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove these shoes!!!!!!!

  94. Andrea Says:

    I don’t see these as being the most comfortable shoes, but they do look wearable. That little flat part behind the sole of the shoe makes it possible to balance I think. They’d be heavy though, with the bottom being brass hardware

  95. Casey Lemme Says:

    I think these shoes are fabulous! The thought of this shoe is absolutely remarkable and I would buy these if I found them in a store. They would certainly make a person stop and look at them. No matter if they were made precisely for a new and different design, or if they were made to be worn, I believe that they could be usable eventually.

  96. ALEC :p Says:

    some of these dresses are freaky but the ones from france are funny and if no one was looking i would try one of the mens coats and a big 5 foot tall wig to go with it. MAN this mueseun is SOOOOOOOO FIERCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  97. Zoe Says:

    These shoes are quite nice to realive pressure from your heels. I feel if I wore a pair of shoes like that, my heels would lose all of their blisters; finally. In conclosion their amazing shoes.

  98. Laurie Aron Says:

    Check this out: a real commercial heel-less shoe. The New York Times Women’s Fashion Spring 2008 magazine for Sunday 2/24 (we get it 2/23), p. 237. “Antonio Berardi Shoes. Price on Request.

    Strappy sandal, more solid than the Blahnik, with high platform under the instep.

  99. BÁRBARA Says:

    Adoro a Manolo y todas sus creaciones, más que un diseñador creo que es un arquitecto de zapatos y de sueños, sin lugar a dudas, el mejor.

  100. Emily Putterman-Handler Says:

    Love the Manolos, I teach shoe design/shoemaking all over New York City, Manolo is Zeus!

  101. Todd Says:

    Art for art’s sake. I love it.

  102. Kristin Says:

    Beautiful. And isn’t that all that matters?

  103. bridget Says:

    i’d love to try these on and walk around the Met. oh and for future reference… it’s sex AND the city, not sex IN the city.

  104. Laura Anderson Says:

    At first I was surprised to see these shoes and had little appreciation for them. My opinion soon changed after looking at the March Elle and Harper’s Bazaar magazines. In both magazines I saw shoes resembling this style along with other shoes featuring distinct heals. Although many of the shoes are not practical, I believe this is a great way for designers to show their creativity!

  105. Erin Says:

    I believe these shoes could be commercially sold because people would do anything for fashion. Ballerina’s would really be okay with these shoes because they are use to standing on their tippy-toes. It also looks like their is a platform attached to the tip of the shoe so it wouldn’t solely be you stepping on your tippy-toes. These shoes might be crazy to some people but people will do anything to be fashionable so I could see how people might where them.

  106. becca Says:

    well i like the fact that people are having conversations about this shoe!!!

    but they have actually made a shoe without a heel thats on sale in the uk. it even made it into the newespaper to see how silly the idea is.

    its a good work of art tho, but i wudnt wear anything like that, because i find it hard to walk in heels, let alone nonheels.

  107. Sue Says:

    I remember that marc Jacobs showed this kind of shoes for this spring/summer. I was quite shocked when I first saw these Manolo Blahnik shoes, because I thought Marc Jacobs shoes were so new! I felt that fashion is definitely turning back again and again, and there’s no perfectly new design.

  108. Ned Says:


  109. B Prindle Says:

    These shoes are so Spring 2008, but once again Manolo was the pioneer. They look eminently practical to me–there’s an extension of the sole that supports the mid-foot, and the straps on the top of the foot and ankle provide additional support. If these shoes were updated to have silver hardware, shinier leather, and a variety of colors they would be a commercial success!

  110. Haley Loraine Says:

    HeHe.. I love the title of this exhibit item.. Comical… Although I would love to wear these shoes around, to see what they feel like, and see if they actually could be commerical, or if perhaps they are just for looks and you would fall straight on your behind. They remind me of enhancing shoes ( shoes in which people wear that are tennis shoes with the tip of the foot lifted, to work the calf muscles and to increase the size), I have worn a pair of such shoes for track, and although they are hard to walk in, it is possible, but trust me the next day my legs hurt so much. So I could honestly see these shoes being the next big craze, along with women whom have HUGE calf muscles:)…

  111. ginny Says:

    are you kidding me? what is the point of creating shoes that no one can wear? This seems to be over-the-top trading on celebrity. Get a life!

  112. laura Says:

    Though they are a very interesting design, I have trouble understanding how it would be possible to walk while wearing these boots! I’m intrigued now, and it would probably be very interesting to try walking, or even standing, in these boots! Definitely the best part of the entire collection though!

  113. tini Says:

    omg they`re great…
    I`d love to walk with them i t has to be a wonderful feeling =)))\just like flying, but with shoes

  114. Samantha S. Says:

    I would rather be dead than have to wear these out for a night.

  115. Kat Says:

    Why no heal? <3 them otherwise. How can you not?

  116. Michaela Says:

    i wouldn’t mind them. i took like 7 yrs of russian ballet, im used to standing on my toes

  117. Raina Says:

    is it actually possible to walk in those things?

  118. sarah Says:

    i really like these shoes,very unquie.

  119. Ericka Syhre Says:

    I would love to try and wear these shoes, even just for a few minutes! I don’t know how comfortable they would be. I do tend to walk on my toes a lot (especially up stairs) and have a history of gymnastics. Maybe all of that balance training would finally pay off!

  120. krissi Says:

    like i really just don’t understand how one could walk or stand with these shoes on … INSANE :)

  121. Morgan Says:

    how are you people saying you want to twirl and fly in these shoes when there is absolutely no way you can walk in them without falling on your face. are you kidding me?

  122. yvette Says:

    I love these shoes!!!! they make me happy

  123. Darby Says:

    Ow! Wouldn’t that hurt the soles of your foot?
    You wouldn’t be able to walk aroud New York City in those.

  124. Paris Says:

    thinks this dress is fierce! work it out! =p

  125. Lilia Says:

    i think that it would be VERY hard to walk in these shoes, also if you bought those shoes you would NEED to have a GREAT sense of balance.

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