Photo courtesy petitefeet.com website, the article is from the inimitable Maureen Dowd, an article on what happens at a Manolo Blahnik sample sale…
I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. It didn’t take long. “Mademoiselle!” André Leon Talley barked at a young woman fondling a black cutout ankle boot. “That is too dominatrix for you!”
She turned a gimlet eye on the vast Vogue editor sprawled resplendently in a chair, wearing a Frank Sinatra pork-pie hat, a maroon shirt and trousers from Marrakesh, and a Paloma Picasso burnt-velvet vintage scarf.
“I want to be a dominatrix,” she told him, before dropping the boot, which was pounced on by a pride of women prowling like big cats about to tear into an antelope on Animal Planet.
If you thought the recession had dampened interest in luxury accessories, you didn’t see the women lined up after daybreak at the Warwick Hotel on Thursday. A room there was the scene of one of New York’s most feral anthropological tableaus: the biannual Manolo Blahnik sample sale. Talley has been ringmaster of this sartorial circus for three years running.
Not since Cinderella’s stepsisters mutilated their feet to squeeze into that glass slipper have women leveled such fierce desire at footwear. At last fall’s sale, two women dumped their babies on Manolo employees in the lobby as they sped into the room.
Inside, a thousand pairs of shoes are heaped on tables in plastic bags. Some scofflaws wear old shoes, leave them on a table, and sneak out with new ones.
I stopped by the 10 1/2 table to look for a Christmas present for a friend. “Have you seen any flats?” I asked a woman avidly pawing through the pile.
“If I find them,” she snapped, “I won’t tell you.”
One young man, a lawyer, braved the female crowd to hunt for heels for his girlfriend. “Bonus points,” he said slyly.
Shea Collins, an attractive brunette with a British accent, stopped by Talley’s chair to prove she had the moxie to stride around Manhattan in five-inch stilettos. She lifted her prim gray coat to show him pantyhose with a trompe l’oeil garter belt.
He let out a shriek of delight, before turning to a lovely twenty-something to say her water snake knee-high boots were a “must.” “They’re made from some kind of fish scale,” he said. “That’s sort of sustainable, sort of green.”
In a sumptuous book celebrating his 20th anniversary, Christian Louboutin explained the eternal erotic allure of high heels: “It’s because it gives the woman’s foot the same curve” and arch “as pleasure does” in the boudoir.
Blahnik once told The New Yorker’s Michael Specter that during his lonely childhood in the Canary Islands, he captured lizards and made shoes for them out of tinfoil saved by his mother from her Camel cigarette cartons. Now the designer makes shoes out of reptiles.
Talley, who calls Blahnik “a surrogate brother,” presides like a French king, demanding “raffinement,” oblivious to the cognitive dissonance of his size 15 1/2 black New Balance sneakers with Velcro straps.
“You don’t want Pepto Bismol pink or Tweety Bird yellow,” he announces, surveying the stacks of heels. “I love anything with black sequins.” Or mink pom-poms.
He calls out to a woman in white daisy sandals, “Sexy at the ocean!” and nods to another in black marabou slingbacks: “Marlene Dietrich in ‘Morocco.’ ”
He instructs a lady trying on brown boots: “That white saddle stitching will fit right in in Rockland County, sweetie — suburban chic!” (She was indeed from Rockland County.) He likes a pair of navy suede chevalier boots that a New York Post writer is wriggling into. “Very Toulouse-Lautrec in a bordello.” When she can’t get them zipped, he shakes his head: “Your calves are too fat. Stop going to the gym so much.”
He separates a single woman from a pair of S&M stilettos. “They will help you get a night,” he cautions, “not a boyfriend.”
He crisply orders a woman to step away from some fringed boots — “Annie Oakley is not ‘in’ this year” — and shoos another away from plain black boots. “You can go to L. L. Bean for that,” he snips. But he urges a third to risk some white Mongolian lamb boots mounted on shiny white patent leather: “Oh baby, you’ve got the hot little body for cheerleader boots. Wear them in Gstaad or St. Moritz.”
She murmurs that she doesn’t have that life. He bellows, “Darling, those boots will get you that life!”
A glamorous 75-year-old in a fedora looking at leopard-print stingray d’Orsays confides to Talley: “Twenty years ago I got on an elevator in d’Orsay pumps and I was engaged the next day.”
A young woman approaches Talley to snap a picture of his scarf for her blog, and he is alarmed that she doesn’t know that Paloma is Pablo’s daughter.
“I’m from Kansas,” she wails.
When a woman challenges Talley, he accuses her of wearing “mass-market platforms” into the sale. Another attempts to defy his negative edict, noting that “Kelly Bensimon has these shoes.”
At that, he bristles, reminding all the women teetering and strutting on their pedestals: “I AM NEVER WRONG.”