Blahnik shoe boutique opens in Dublin


Manolo Blahnik was more exercised about the ESB's offices on Fitzwilliam Street than his first European instore shoe boutique

SHOE DESIGNER Manolo Blahnik paid a rare visit to Dublin yesterday to open his first European instore boutique in Brown Thomas.

Even though his name has become a byword for the world's most beautiful and flirtatious shoes, the half Spanish, half Czech designer was more impassioned about the ESB than modern footwear.

"I got the shock of my life when I first came to Ireland and saw Fitzwilliam Street. Why did they destroy such beauty? Why did they not keep the façade? This was a massacre," he insisted.

Dublin's Georgian squares actually inspired the new store designed by his architect niece Kristina Blahnik who was with him. In concrete, steel, linen and etched glass, "the idea was to create the sense of a Georgian living room and swamp the place with rough materials against which to display the shoes like sculptures," she said.

Despite Blahnik's stand on the ESB, he doesn't like platforms when it comes to shoes. "I thought they would go away last year, but they are still going on," he said with a shrug. As for the growing vogue for extreme and elaborate stilettos, his opinion is that "they look as if they have come from Fredericks of Hollywood where all the prostitutes and street walkers go. I have nothing against prostitutes, but it's all about porn stars now. I am much more of a fan of the directoire style and I love the Fifties and Suzy Parker."

Women's obsession with shoes is something he finds difficult to explain. "I guess that women have always loved shoes and lately the extremities are important and people are almost being forced to look down."

The Sex and the City series, where a whole episode revolved around Carrie Bradshaw being mugged for her Manolos, brought his name into the global arena.

Dressed in an impeccable double-breasted suit, bow tie, pale blue cashmere waistcoat and his own suede versions of black matador pumps, Blahnik (65) cuts a figure as elegant and visually dramatic as the shoes he designs.

His cultural references have always been wide and the autumn/ winter "warrior" collection debuting in Dublin includes boots with Samurai masks or studded with crusader-style metal discs "for a modern, powerful woman" along with courts and slingbacks "with classic proportions that are just perfection".