November 19th was a big night for Manolo Blahnik, as well as other brands honored by Walpole. The designer, best known for his brand’s footwear, was bestowed the distinction “Luxury Legend” during the Walpole British Luxury Awards. It is a much deserved recognition for the Spanish designer for his four decades’ worth of work, a significant amount of which was spent in London. The British capital, specifically its Chelsea district, has been home to the eponymous brand’s flagship store for just about the same amount of time.
The award was presented to Blahnik by Yasmin Le Bon and Anna Murphy, the former of which described the designer as a genius. “He never ceases to excite and beguile… and he inspires endlessly,” Le Bon further said. Blahnik is a humble personality, however, who did not even think of himself as a legend even if Helen Brocklebank, Walpole CEO would disagree. He attributes his modesty to age—growing older has made him care less about awards and fame. This comes from a man who has had his own share of awards, including an honorary knighthood from the Queen that he was given in 2007. Being recognized for his talents was never the intended result of his creativity and persistence, although it is still something he appreciates.
Beyond his acceptance of the award and recognizing the people dear to him, the modest designer expressed that he is just lucky to be enjoying the thing he is doing. At 72, Blahnik is still at it with his designs. In the last year, he has teamed up with Rihanna for a much anticipated collection. Business is even growing as he finds a home for his menswear collection on Burlington Arcade. His Hangisi shoes recently saw a revival, particularly the ones that were famously included in the Sex and the City movie. There’s non-designer work, too, the documentary Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes For Lizards, is a tribute to the designer’s contributions to fashion as well as proof of his legendary status.
Blahnik is joined by other awardees for the night, such as Royal Ballet x Erdem, Mulberry, Demellier, Rory Dobner, Luke Edward Hall, Belmond, and Fortnum & Mason. Alison Loehnis, currently the president of both Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter, has been acknowledged as the night’s Luxury Leader.
This year’s event was held at The Dorchester, and was hosted by actor Jason Isaacs, who chose to donate his pay for the night to Red Cross. The attendance was quite a number, with 375 executives and creatives from the industry as well as models and creators gracing the event. Besides the winners, spotted guests include Jodie Kidd, Lady Kitty Spencer, Alice Temperley, Cressida Bonas and June Sarpong.
The awards show is the 17th of its kind, aiming to celebrate excellent British high end brands that contribute significantly to the luxury sector of the United Kingdom. The sector is not only important culturally but also economically, reportedly generating 40 billion dollars to the UK. Besides taking the time to identify and reward exceptional and rising labels, Walpole also has efforts in protecting and developing the industry. It has done so through research and mentorship, among many others.
Image credits: Walpole British Luxury Awards, Getty Images / David M. Benett, Luxury London, Manolo Blahnik, Dennis Leupold, BFA NYC