(mah-NO-lo BLAH-nik) Women's shoe designer of Czech/Spanish descent, born in the Canary Islands. Studied art and literature, worked for some time in theater before beginning shoe design. Shops located in Chelsea and New York. Most of the shoes cost $400-$1,500, with some custom designs running as high as $10,000.

Also famous for being one of the rare designers to actually create his own designs, having spent approximately 10 years training to become a shoemaker. Renowned for stiletto heels (often times 4") and luxury materials. Limited line of shoes carried by Neiman Marcus, most under $1,000.

While he has been around for about 30 years, Blahnik enjoyed a surge of popularity when his shoes were frequently featured on the TV show Sex and the City. His shoes are generally purchased and worn as status symbols, usually lovingly referred to by the victims as "my Manolos."

I visited New York City several months ago, and while shopping on Fifth Avenue I decided to make the foray to his shop on 54th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues (near the Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA). I was fully prepared to attempt to find a pair under $500 and treat myself, despite my companions' mockery.

When we finally made it there, we were let inside and given a multitude of dirty looks by the help; it was 35 degrees and raining, so we weren't exactly dressed to impress. I wandered around, looked at the confections on the shelf, and began to wonder what all the fuss was about. A hideously colored pair with feathers all over the ankle strap. Another pair of 4" sandals with beads on the straps that screamed of the blisters lurking in the future for some unlucky buyer. Huge boots, which I'm sure cost a fortune. I made my way back and saw the lovely little garden in the back of the store (aside from Central Park, greenspace in Manhattan is a rarity). I was shopping hard - nothing appealed to me.

Finally there was a lovely little pair of sling-backs on the top shelf - modest heel, sturdy looking. I tried them on, thought them adequate (though I wasn't enthralled) and asked about the price.

"Hmm....I believe those are $1230."

I raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah, those are Louisiana alligator. This whole rack is Louisiana alligator, so they start around $900."

Excuse my ignorance, but I can't believe people still make real alligator shoes anymore. They looked to me like the fake stuff you see at Target (or I suppose the fake stuff at Target is a very convincing imitation). I thanked her and left.

The store is small, cramped, and a little smelly. Very young people work there, and generally show a pathetic dearth of manners, especially to the hoi polloi, such as myself. The place also happens to be rather difficult to locate. While I appreciate the value of beautiful shoes, and admit to having an embarrassingly large quantity of them, I was rather unimpressed by the store and goods within it.

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