SOMETIMES, there are moments in life that are just so fabulous, you have to pinch yourself really hard to make sure that it’s actually really happening.
That you’re not really dreaming and going to wake up and be back to reality with a hard, cold bump.
This night, as you can probably imagine, was one of them.
I met the legendary Manolo Blahnik many years ago, at a small ‘soiree’ in Dusseldorf, Germany. Just one of 100 guests invited from across Europe to not only meet the King of Shoes himself, but to dine with him too.
I was 26, on the first rung of my professional career, working as a journalist for the footwear publication ‘Out On A Limb’,when the invite landed in the editorial office.
I opened it, read it, swooned appropriately and passed it on to my line manager and thought absolutely no more of it. I certainly didn’t expect to be given the opportunity of a lifetime to meet him. To be picked out of the team to go. It was almost too wonderful to contemplate but as it turned out, lady luck seemed to like me that day and I was chosen.
As you would rightly expect, for a shoe loving girl like me, it was, without doubt, one of the best moments of my career to date. And certainly one that I will never forget. Indeed, there were many times when I thought to myself this will never happen, but yet it did.
Arrangements were made, flights were booked and a few weeks later I found myself heading off across the continent, to attend the posh ‘do’, the likes of which I had never been to before.
Nervous but giddy with excitement, I hopped onto a tiny plane with a ridiculously small amount of hand luggage and arrived in Dusseldorf a few hours later, relieved to be still in one piece after a terrifying taxi journey.
With a quick change into my soiree outfit – a black pencil skirt by Dolce & Gabbana and black lace halterneck – I hotfooted it into a taxi and headed off to the glamorous gathering, picking up the other UK journalist on the way. Yep, just two of us were invited to represent our fine country and editorial talents. No pressure there whatsoever.
The evening was heavenly. A glamorous and slightly surreal event attended by the creme de la creme of German society and many international journalists.
I drank champagne. Flutes of the stuff. I swooned over the incredible Manolo Blahnik shoes in the private exhibition. I nattered and laughed with fellow journalists, many of whom spoke languages I didn’t even recognise, but thankfully always spoke at least a little English.
I feasted on the finest food and ate truffle for the first time which was the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted. I watched a supermodel eat (yes, it happens) and could only watch in awe, an hour or so earlier, when she arrived at the event, posing expertly for the paparazzi who were in a frenzy to get the best shot of the stunning Nadja Auermann, the woman with the longest legs in the world.
Was she beautiful? Incredibly so. So beautiful in fact that she didn’t look ‘human’. I can only compare the shock of seeing her to the reaction you would have to a giraffe just suddenly walking into your living room. She was literally out of this world.
I listened to the Editor-In-Chief of German Vogue speak eloquently about the immense talent of Manolo Blahnik in the welcome address and got tipsy on some of the best alcoholic spirits known to mankind.
I was even snubbed by a supermodel! I smiled at and attempted to say hello to the giraffe-like goddess when I literally bumped into her in the ladies toilets and was promptly ignored and dismissed. It didn’t bother me though, all I could think was “I’ve been snubbed by a supermodel!” and the smile on my face remained huge.
And finally, I got to meet the man of the hour. The great man himself. The man responsible for making women the world over fall in love with fine, dazzling footwear. The great Manolo Blahnik.
He was dressed beautifully, in the most exquisite suit. He was handsome and impeccably groomed. And he was totally and utterly charming.
He had the class of a nobleman yet the grace and manners of someone from humble beginnings. Kind, funny, intelligent and welcoming. A true gentleman and I adored him.
We spoke for just a few minutes as he signed my gift, a book featuring his stunning illustrations. Just long enough for me to tell him how much I loved his breathtaking designs and sensational shoes. He replied by telling me how lovely it was to see a new, upcoming face like mine in the industry. Suffice to say, I was a little stunned.
Regrettably, I didn’t get a photograph with him. It just didn’t seem the thing to do at the time and I, being much younger then, was too timid to ask.
Nor was I brave enough to ask him his opinion on my footwear – a pair of YSL heeled sandals, my first pair of designer shoes that I had bought especially for the occasion. But you live and learn. And boy did I learn that night.
For a young woman, still very much finding her feet in both work and life, this incredible experience not only gave me a fabulous dinner party story, but boosted my confidence and showed me a glimpse of an exciting world.
It was a night in which a small dream came true. My finest Cinderalla moment. A night in which I was invited into an elite fashion circle. Me, a working class girl from a struggling Northern town.
What I experienced that night was fabulous, bemusing, daunting and slightly intimidating. Yet I mingled, talked, laughed, watched and held my own with the best of them. By the end of the evening, I even felt like I belonged.
I arrived back at my hotel room that night, exhilarated, inspired and confident. All things considered, I’d been thoroughly Manolo’d.
The next day, on a mad dash to the airport to return home, I caught my reflection in a mirror and sighed when I noticed my ‘bad hair’ moment. But then I remembered. The ‘super -snubber’ with the longest legs and divine face and how her immaculate hair style had flopped half way through the meal. And I stopped sighing and smiled broadly instead.
Because regardless of whether you’re having a bad hair day or eating the finest truffle, this unique experience showed me that whatever our background, we’re all essentially the same. Made of the same stuff. Experiencing the same fears.
It’s just that some of us – if we’re really, really lucky – get to go to great parties and wear prettier, fancier shoes.
With love (and pouts)