Style | The Aesthete

Manolo Blahnik talks personal style

Designer of iconic shoes, Manolo Blahnik has 200 sales points worldwide, including a pop-up store in Liberty of London.

November 16 2010
Natasha Higgins

My personal style signifier is my cuff links – 19th-century Sicilian coral and gold from the Pennisi boutique in Milan. I’ve worn them nearly every day for the past 25 years. 29 Via Manzoni, Milan 20121 (+3902-862 232;

The last thing I bought and loved was a selection of silk bow ties from Charvet, one of those wonderfully old-fashioned places of which there are now so few. I almost always wear a bow tie. These are Scottish plaid with spots and bright colours. 28 Place Vendôme, Paris 75001 (+331-4260 3070;

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a collection of Irving Penn’s photographs. The rigorous perfection in each image is unique. I would love to have the shots of Sophia Loren or model Penelope Tree.

A recent “find” is Potterton Books. It has the best collection of picture books. When I came across it a few months ago, I went slightly mad with excitement. The lady who runs it is lovely too. 93 Lower Sloane Street, London SW1 (020-7730 4235;

The grooming staple I’m never without is Roger & Gallet hair gel. I apply it every morning, ritually, after my shower. I would pull my hair out if it hung over my forehead!

The book on my bedside table is L’Education Sentimentale by Gustave Flaubert. I’ve read it so many times, but I love the descriptions of the characters and events – they are so beautiful. I have trouble sleeping, so I read a lot. Also, I’ve recently been looking over my new book of drawings with Thames & Hudson. It took a long time to put together, but I have to say I’m happy with the outcome.

In my fridge you’ll always find a few pints of semi-skimmed milk (I drink lots and have a glass or two before going to bed), marmalade, butter, vegetables and fruit. In the morning I have two slices of brown bread from Le Pain Quotidien with butter and marmalade. I like having a set routine.

The last music downloaded onto my iPod was some opera by Cecilia Bartoli. I love medieval songs. I also love Arabic music, especially Natacha Atlas.

The best gift I’ve given recently was a wedding present for friends; I painted a picture of a polka-dot shoe for the couple.

And the best one I’ve received recently was a bottle of Viennese Knize Ten cologne. It has a very discreet and clean scent, and I couldn’t find it anywhere other than New York. But I recently came across it in Mazzolari in Milan. I told the kind shopkeepers how happy I was to have found it and they gave it to me for free. I was really touched. Mazzolari, Galleria San Babila 4/D, Milano 20122 (+3902-7600 0063;

The site that inspires me is the Kuskovo Estate in Moscow, today home to the Russian State Museum of Ceramics. I’ve loved neoclassicism ever since I learnt about it at school – people thought it was strange how enamoured I was of it. The estate was badly damaged during the French invasion in 1812, but the impressive oak panelling was left intact. 2 Ulitsa Yunosti, Moscow 111402 (+7495-375 3131;

An indulgence I’d never forego used to be chocolate. I was heavily into all kinds – Moroccan, Swiss, Cadbury – everything, really. But it’s not good for the liver, so I’ve had to cut down. The other day, though, I went to Fortnum & Mason for tea and had a delicious piece of chocolate cake; you have to occasionally. 181 Piccadilly, London W1 (020-7734 8040;

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Francisco de Zurbarán. I love each one of his pieces but, sadly, I could never afford any. My favourite painting is Saint Francis in Meditation. I go to see it at The National Gallery; it inspires me every time. Trafalgar Square, London WC2 (020-7747 2885;

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would want to be a film historian, or restore and repair old and silent films.