Manolo says, the Vasilios!, who advises the designers in the FN Shoe Star contest, as the sort of Tim Gunn cognate, has called the Manolo out for the comments the Manolo has made.

Here is what the Manolo said…

But, before we can go to the judges table to view the carnage, we are treated to 45 mildly amusing seconds of Vasilios! kvetching at the designers, and offering not much in the way of usable suggestions.

Here below is the video of the episode in the question, the Vasilios! part begins at 1:30, and lasts for about three minutes…

Aside from underestimating the amount of time given to Vasilios!, the Manolo does not believe he has entirely mischaracterized the segment.

But, here is what the Vasilios! said to the Manolo..

Oh, and to the MANOLO, my job is in fact about giving them design suggestions which I do on or off camera very well. And I don’t tell them what to design; the end decision is theirs.

Perhaps the Manolo was not clear, but The Manolo has never doubted that the Vasilios! was not giving sound advice to the designers, (indeed his reputation as the excellent teacher is well known at the FIT) but rather the Manolo’s complaint was about the editing of the segment, which made it appear that all Vasilios! was doing was kvetching.

Such complaints about editing are nothing new. From the beginning of this series, the Manolo has complained that, as is customary in the reality shows, the story of the design process is subjugated to the perceived needs of the the dramatic arc.

Vasilios and Keena

Vasilios! and Keena

To which the Manolo would say, show us the shoes and how the designers wrestle with the very difficult tasks that are given to them, rather than the typical tricks of the editing common to the reality genre.

Trust your audience to enjoy the process of shoe design and making.

Of the course, if the Manolo had his way, Vasilios! would appear more often in the episodes, and his comments about the shoes as they are being made would be featured at the greater length. Vasilios! is not only the person with the greatest amount of shoemaking knowledge and experience, he is also the most entertaining person associated with the FN Shoe Star (which is why the Manolo insists on rendering his name with the exclamation mark, Vasilios!).

Finally, to the Vasilios! the Manolo offers his sincere apologies.

P.S. Special note: Is it not obvious, that the Manolo lives in the fantasy world?

Whose Shoes Wednesday…The Answer!

Manolo asked, whose shoes?

Marisa Tomei Shoes

Manolo answers, it is the Marisa Tomei!

Congratulations to the Manolo’s internet friend, the Jezebella, who was the first and only person to correctly identify this week’s personage of note.


If the Shoe Name Fits…

N.B. Our friend Nancy Friedman, the Manolo’s favorite wordworker, delivers to us the witty and smarty post on the topic of the shoe names.

Meet Caryn, who recently took up residence in my closet.

Caryn from Corso Como
Corso Como Caryn at 6pm.com

My Caryn is brown suede, from Nordstrom Rack.

I know she’s called Caryn because the sticker on the sole told me so. I can’t tell you who named her or whether her name has a private meaning for that person. But I can tell you that “Caryn” has very specific significance for Corso Como, the manufacturer.

Now, I’m a professional name developer—companies, products, book titles—so I’m a little more obsessed with shoe names than the average stiletto-holic. (Disclaimer: One of my clients, Arthur Beren Shoes, sells some of the styles I’ll be talking about here.)

But anyone who loves shoes should take an interest in shoe names. Why? Because some designers name their shoes according to a not-so-secret code, and deciphering it will help you be a smarter shopper.

Take Salvatore Ferragamo, the Italian brand you may know for its extensive size range and associations with old-school Hollywood glamour. What you may not know is that all the styles created for a season have names that begin with the same letter.

Spring 2011, for example, is brought to you by the letter D.

Ferragamo Domizia

Ferragamo Domizia

Ferragamo Dulcinea

Ferragamo Dulcinea

Ferragamo Darleen

Ferragamo Darleen

With Ferragamo, if a shoe doesn’t have a letter-of-the-season name, you know it’s either (a) a perennial, like the ever-popular Audrey (named for Audrey Hepburn), or (b) an item from a previous season that may have a discounted price.

The other major code-name strategy is structural. With this approach, the style name is coded to identify its last—the shoe-shaped wooden block around which a shoe is built.

Fly London, which calls itself “the footwear of universal youth culture,” names its shoes this way. When you see a Fly London shoe style whose name begins with “G,” you know it has a cork wedge platform that rises to 3¼ inches, with a nubby rubber outsole on the bottom.

Fly London Gilda Wedge

Fly London Gilda

Fly London Gaia Wedge

Fly London Gaia

Similarly, all the Fly London “L” shoes –Lark, London, Lotto, et al.—have low, spool-shaped, leather-wrapped 1½-inch heels.

Fly London Laff

Fly London Laff

Fly London Lil

Fly London Lil

My Caryn was named this way, but Corso Como takes the formula one step further, using the first two letters of the name as the code. Caryn is a peep-toe shoe-bootie with a 2 ½-inch heel and a zipper, just like its first-initial-C littermates Casey and Cambridge. But Corso Como shoes that begin with Ch, such as Christian or Chorus, have 4-inch heels and thick rubber platforms. Dozer andDoze have 4-inch espadrille wedge soles with 1-inch platforms, while Daile and Dalt have 4-inch slender stacked heels and 1-inch platforms. (I admit I don’t know what to make of Carro, which should resemble Casey, Caryn, and Cambridge but instead is a lace-up oxford with a 2 ¼-inch heel. I just wish it were available in my size.)

For those of us who like our shoes to embody order and reason along with comfort and elegance, these shoe-naming formulas are oddly comforting. Ah, but not all shoe designers are logical creatures. For them, shoe-naming is a flight of fancy, whimsy, or even Teh Crazy. More about those names in a future post.

Whose Shoes Wednesday

Manolo asks, whose shoes?



While previously reserved for hanging off of graduation caps and stripper pasties, the tassel has become one of this seasons hottest fashion accents. Fringe has been dangling down the Spring/Summer runways at Gucci and Louis Vuitton in the form of earrings, necklaces, bags, and of course…shoes.

I think the tassel accent brings a playful energy to any footwear collection. We aren’t talking about what dangles off of your grandmothers couches or the rope that ties a small town’s community theater curtains together. This fringe is updated, fresh and aimed at your ankles.

Vena Cava Ankle Tie Platform

These Vena Cava Ankle-Tie Platforms feature white leather tassels. It’s like ornaments for your feet.


Jeffrey Campbell MaryLou Ivory

Perhaps you’re a fan of something a little more bold and adventurous? Check out these Jeffrey Campbell Mary-Lou Ivory Suede Wedge Bootie. With both suede front fringe panels and dangling tassels, these booties really take the trend into overdrive.


Miu Miu Woven Leather Platform

These Miu Miu Woven Leather Platforms are an interesting consolidation of many recent trends. The smooth leather tassels dangling from the braided canvas ties bring the multimedia look of the shoe together.

So next time you hear the word “tassel”, don’t think of the dangling distraction hanging from a high schooler’s used car rear-view mirror, but rather the fashionable accent swinging around this season.

The Museum Curator and the Flip-Flops

Manolo says, last year, our friends at the Collectors Weekly ran the most fascinating interview with the Elizabeth Semmelhack, author of the book The Heights of Fashion and the senior curator at the Bata Shoe Museum, about the high heels.

This time, the Elizabeth Semmelhack is interviewed about the history and meaning of the flip-flops. Here is the excerpt.

Collectors Weekly: When did it become more acceptable to wear flip-flops outside of the home or during the week?

Semmelhack: Sigerson Morrison made expensive heeled flip-flops at the end of the ’90s. When they made it, it created a buzz because they were also charging quite a bit for those flip-flops. They were not your average $10 flip-flop. I think they cost more than a hundred bucks when they were first offered.

Sigerson Morrison Kitten Heel Thong

Sigerson Morrison Kitten Heel Thong

The acceptability of the flip-flop is related to the hypersexualization of women’s dress. That’s why my research has been focused on the high heel. The introduction of the sandal—not the flip-flop but the toe-exposing sandal—in the 1930s, was part of a greater trend towards the “nudification,” for lack of a better term, of the female body. I feel that there has been a marked progression toward increased exposure of the female body.

What I find intriguing now is that men have begun to follow suit—perhaps not the best term here. Men are now falling in line with this increased exposure, and it could be argued this increased exposure is starting at their feet. With that increased exposure is concern about male pedicures and all kinds of grooming of the male body. I do see this as part of this larger continuum toward hypersexualization in dress. But if this exposure of the body is related to hyersexualization, I think the question—are flip-flops sexy—also needs to be asked, and I think the answer is no.

Consider the Sigerson Morrison high-heeled flip-flop. At the end of the ’90s, we certainly saw a lot of high-heeled sandal-like evening shoes for women that exuded erotic appeal.

Traditional Japanese Zori

19th Century Japanese Zori

And yet, somehow, that exact same structure, the heeled flip-flop structure wrought in inexpensive plastic, wasn’t. I think that the materials used to make flip-flops, their garish colors and their consistent association with play, has kept the flip-flop from really becoming sexy. On the cover of “Playboy,” you will see women in high heeled thronged sandals, but you don’t see them wearing a pair of flip-flops.

The “nudification” of the female body! This is why the Elizabeth Semmelhack has become one of the Manolo’s favorite fashion intellectuals.

Of the course, she is exactly right. For the past century, the general trend has been the freeing of the female form; bustles, corsets, girdles, and now the panty hose, all gone the way of the dodo bird.

Once the peep-toe shoes were too sexy for the work place, and now, thanks to the modern nudification project, everyone is vajazzaling.

But you must go read the whole thing for it is very interesting.


FN Shoe Star, Episode 11

Manolo says, and now the 11th episode of the FN Shoe Star is available on the line for your viewing pleasure.

In this episode, as the Manolo had predicted, the Hyojin was shown the door and given the rocker-shoe boot.

However, it was not the Manolo’s choice, Rachel, who was declared the winner, but Matthew. He was chosen because the judges believed he had accomplished the impossible goal of making the toner-shoe that could potentially trick some unlucky man into purchasing it.

Other than the predicted loser and the unpredicted winner, there is not much else to report, except that the celebrity judge, the fabulously successful Tom’s Shoe Guy, Blake Mycoskie, knows next to nothing about the shoes.

He does not know the shoes, but what the Blake Mycoskie does know is the marketing to the young peoples in the way that makes them feel good about paying wildly inflated prices for the cheap Argentine peasant shoes.

The same Tom’s alpargatas that sell for $44 in America, can be purchased in Buenos Aires for less than $6, retail..

Blake Mycoskie,

Blake Mycoskie, Capitalist, Philanthropist, Dude

And, yes, the Manolo knows that your first-world guilt is assuaged by knowing that the adorably hunky Blake is helping the poor children by giving them the one pair for every pair you buy (while pocketing the remaining $30, minus the expenses).

Such beneficence!

Would it not be better, asks the Manolo, to buy the mostly identical shoes which are $30 cheaper and give the difference to the charity of your choice? There are many peoples who are much more efficient at delivering the help to those who need it than the dudely self-promoter with the nice smile and the big mark up.

But, that is just the crazy thought from the Manolo, who likes to keep his conspicuous consumption separate from his private charity giving.

Yves Saint Laurent Suede Tribute Sandals For the Monday

Manolo says, it is Monday and you are back in your office thinking about life, changing careers, and Prufrock.

I have known them all already, known them all:
The commuter’s evenings, mornings, afternoons.
My car, coffee cups throughout are strewn
Papers ones from the Starbucks by the mall.
Now, beneath the dash there is no room
So, I should get a broom.

And I have known the mornings steady, known them all:
Mornings that break early, bright and fair.
[But, in the afternoon, clogged with smoggy air!]
Is it the floorboard mess
That makes me so digress?
Mornings that lie along the road, or languish while the traffic crawls.
And should I send my resumé?
And what should my cover letter say?

Shall I say, I have gone back to school for my poetry MFA?
And watched the student loans defaulting,
With lonely writers in shirt-sleeves, working as barristas?…

I should never have been an actuary,
Scuttling across the spreadsheets of silent seas.

Yves Saint Laurent Tribute Suede Sandals

“I am Yves Saint Laurent, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”


Bronze Boots — My Descent into Sin

N.B. The Manolo’s friend Sarah (who has the new blog!) is back with yet another literary shoe moment which will edify and amuse.

The first shoes I remember wearing were Buster Browns. Every fall my mom would buy a brown pair for my brother, a red pair for my sister, and a blue pair for me. They looked, more or less, like this:

Buster Browns

(It was the early 70s. Toddler-aged boys could wear this kind of thing their fathers worrying about some bizarre danger to their toddler-aged machismo. Darth Maul sneakers hadn’t been invented yet. Darth Maul hadn’t been invented yet. STAR WARS hadn’t been invented yet. I digress.)

For very special occasions, like church and birthday parties, my sister and I had patent leather mary-janes, like these.

My Special Shoes

My Special Shoes

They had soles so slick that Mom had to put strips of electrical tape on the bottom to keep us from wiping out on our way into the Sunday school room. To keep them shiny and prevent them from cracking, we rubbed them with a thin coat of Vaseline every now and again.

You’ll note that the striking thing about these shoes is their complete and utter tediousness. I suppose they’re classically good-looking, but they did nothing to set my poetic little heart on fire with a deep and abiding passion for the cobbler’s art.

No. For that awakening it was necessary, as it always has been, for me to turn to the revelations contained in a good book.

The book, in this case, was Louisa May Alcott’s An Old Fashioned Girl. (I bet at least one of you is already nodding and smiling. I can’t be the only one.) And the scene is this one:

“There’s one thing you must have, and that is, bronze boots,” said Fan, impressively.

“Why must I, when I’ve got enough without?”

“Because it’s the fashion to have them, and you can’t be finished off properly without. I’m going to get a pair, and so must you.”

“Don’t they cost a great deal?”

“Eight or nine dollars, I believe. I have mine charged; but it don’t matter if you haven’t got the money. I can lend you some.”

“I’ve got ten dollars to do what I like with; but it’s meant to get some presents for the children.” And Polly took out her purse in an undecided way.

“You can make presents easy enough. Grandma knows all sorts of nice contrivances. They’ll do just as well; and then you can get your boots.”

“Well; I’ll look at them,” said Polly, following Fanny into the store, feeling rather rich and important to be shopping in this elegant manner.

“Aren’t they lovely? Your foot is perfectly divine in that boot, Polly. Get them for my party; you’ll dance like a fairy,” whispered Fan.

Polly surveyed the dainty, shining boot with the scalloped top, the jaunty heel, and the delicate toe, thought her foot did look very well in it, and after a little pause, said she would have them.

And the picture. Oh my dears, the picture! (Yes, I still have my childhood copy of this novel. And yes, I knew exactly where it was. And yes, I remembered the picture in every tiny detail. It’s my Proustian madeleine, all right?)

Louisa May Alcott's Bronze Boots

Look at those shoes! They beat Buster Browns and mary-janes without even trying. That scalloped top! The curved heel! The instant sophistication! Not to mention the enticing, and to my childhood mind, utterly mysterious descriptor of them as “bronze.” Were they just bronze in color? Were they shiny and metallic like Mom’s fancy dress up sandals? Did they have metal tips on the toes like my tap shoes? What could bronze boots possibly be—beyond beautiful, unattainable, and forbidden?

My desire knew no bounds. It still doesn’t. Looking at that picture again…who wouldn’t want those shoes?

I should, perhaps, be more cautious in my lust. Because there is something about that scene I had forgotten. Because (since An Old-Fashioned Girl is that particular kind of nineteenth-century fiction for girls that, as Alcott put it, “is not intended as a perfect model, but as a possible improvement upon the Girl of the Period”) our Polly learns a sorrowful lesson after buying her boots.

It was all very delightful till she got home, and was alone; then, on looking into her purse, she saw one dollar and the list of things she meant to get for mother and the children. How mean the dollar looked all alone! and how long the list grew when there was nothing to buy the articles.

“I can’t make skates for Ned, nor a desk for Will; and those are what they have set their hearts upon. Father’s book and mother’s collar are impossible now; and I’m a selfish thing to go and spend all my money for myself. How could I do it?” And Polly eyed the new boots reproachfully, as they stood in the first position as if ready for the party. “They are lovely; but I don’t believe they will feel good, for I shall be thinking about my lost presents all the time,” sighed Polly, pushing the enticing boots out of sight.

Bronze boots were clearly going to lead me immediately down the path of temptation, sin, and financial irresponsibility.

I was doomed.

Happily, I am all but impervious to moral instruction, as my detailed recollection of the boots and complete failure to recall their intended lesson clearly indicates. To this day, I am on the alert for bronze boots, in the hopes of dancing like a fairy and looking perfectly divine.

And I swear I shall keep buying more shoes until I find them.


Manolo the Columnist: Flower Shine from Kenneth Cole Reaction

Manolo says, here is the Manolo’s latest column for the Express of the Washington Post.

Dear Manolo,

I can’t believe it’s already April and things here in the District of Columbia are blooming. It seems like just the other week that we were buried under yet another snowpocalypse. Can you recommend some fun, inexpensive sandals to help me welcome this new season?


Manolo says, the springtime is indisputably the bestest of all times to be in the Washington, D.C.

In the summer, it is both roastingly hot and insanely humid, setting in motion the rare meteorological phenomenon in which the water is simultaneously condensing on your skin and being boiled away. Essentially, you are being poached in your own juices, rendering you nice and tasty for the mosquitoes.

In the winter, the first snow is greeted by the city government as if it were the unexpected, icy fist of God. Let four inches accumulate, and you are living in the Siberian version of Mad Max, in which society collapses and insane people careen around the street in outlandish vehicles looking for petrol and cat food.

As for the fall, every other year it is the election season, and the less said about that period of utter madness the better.

But, in the spring, the weather turns soft, and the cherry trees, the greatest of all the Washington monuments, bloom. Everyone seems happy, and kindness and charity reign supreme. And on the first warm days, you and your co-workers and neighbors go for the long lunchtime strolls along the Mall, talking about how lucky you are to live in the greatest city in the world.

Here is the Flower Shine from the Kenneth Cole Reaction in the stone color, perfect for your walk beneath the blossoms.

Flower Shine from Kenneth Cole Reaction

Nickelodeon Understands Great Role Models

Johnny Deoo Kids Choice 2011

Johnny Depp was a presenter over the weekend at the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards and during his time on stage he proceeded to blow massive loads of green slime all over adoring children fans. Nothing wrong with that. Nope, not one bit. After all, it’s the innocence and naivety of children’s television shows and stars that make a rather suggestive act perfectly acceptable.


For example, take a look at teen star Taylor Momsen posing on the red carpet at the Kids Choice Awards:

Taylor Momsen Kids Choice 2011
The 17 year old starlet, also a presenter at the awards show, showed up looking appropriately bright eyed and innocent for the underage event. With her thick heavy black eyeliner, trashy extensions, and passive air of nonchalance, she is a prefect role model for today’s youth. The leather jacket and flimsy white tank work well with her black skinny jeans to construct a classic vampire-stripper-off-duty look. And the peeping fishnets that lead into those patent platforms are fit for a Suicide Girl.  Why, she’s a glowing gem that any pre-teen hunk would love to bring home to mom.

In all seriousness, I’m just pleased that she put on a pair of pants for once.

The typical Momsen ensemble almost always includes a garter belt, some sort of corset top and platform heels. The fact that this look is considered “classing it up” for her is simply disturbing. People are commending her for this “improvement” whereas I just think she needs to be grounded until she gets an attitude adjustment. She is 17! And her fans are probably younger!

It’s teen stars like this that make Rebecca Black seem like a very viable option for the spotlight.

Whose Shoes Wednesday…The Answer!

Manolo asked, whose shoes?

Jewel Kilcher Shoes

Manolo answers, it is the Jewel!

Congratulations to the Manolo’s internet friend, the Carole, who the first and only person to correctly identify this week’s personage of note.