Floral heels generally look beautiful on well-groomed feet, but the shoes I want to talk about in this post are not of a general kind. The artistic inspiration for these particular floral heels has sprung of a very special place on earth, or rather in the ocean: Canary Islands, the most southerly region of Spain.
Seven big islands and six smaller islands, all of volcanic origin, jut out far into the Atlantic off the northwest coast of Africa. They were once known as the “Fortunate Isles“. The name may be different now, but the sentiment hasn’t changed. People who live or visit there rave about the wondrous beauties and special climate of the Canaries.
Thanks to a good friend of this blog and a fellow passionate shoe blogger, Patricia (Patri) Jorge of Los Zapatos de Patricia, I’m starting to fall in love with the islands from afar. Patri is from Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria, the second most populous island of the archipelago.
Besides being a huge fan of shoes, Patri loves Las Canteras, the beautiful and seemingly endless urban beach that runs in front of her home city. Some time ago she started @miplayaenfotos on Instagram, a kind of visual diary that records her favorite views of Las Canteras day by day, for an entire year. She is currently on day 189. On the photo above you can see the black volcanic soil of the craggy heels mixing with the sandy-colored ash of the beach.
It is also through Patri that I’ve been learning about shoes that were designed to embody the essence of her beloved Canaries by the likes of Manolo Blahnik, the famed designer of fabulous heels.
Manolo Blahnik was born and raised on La Palma, one of the six larger islands of the archipelago – a dreamy place that is less visited than the neighboring Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Earlier this year Manolo Blahnik came out with a special collection inspired by the tunera or prickly pear, a cactus plant that grows all over the Canary Islands.
Cactus flowers are like a small miracle. My grandmother’s cactus plants occupied almost the entire length of the window sill in her room. It was always such a thrill to wake up one morning and discover that one of the small, knobby, hostile-looking plants had produced a beautiful vibrantly colored flower, seemingly out of nowhere.
I remember my grandmother’s joy at this always unexpected gift of nature. I also remember my realization that the most mundane and uninviting exteriors can harbor glorious secrets and that beauty can be found in the unlikeliest of places.
Floral Heels: Manolo Blahnik and Paco Gil
This creation by Manolo Blahnik is clearly a labor of love: the leather texture of this delicate stiletto sandal perfectly imitates the little cushion-like bumps that dot the succulent surface of the cactus pear plant. The magenta colored flower on the front strap is irresistibly lush and the smaller, star-like flowers adorning the ankle straps seem ready to turn into fruit. An amazing visual feat, even for a virtuoso illusionist like Manolo Blahnik!
Imitation is universally considered the highest and most sincere form of flattery. This sandal comes really close to resembling a prickly pear plant, both in texture and in shape.
This is classic Manolo Blahnik: lace, embroidery, and cascading ribbon. I love the slender hour-glass shape of the heel. It is a less direct take at the floral aesthetic, but the origin of the inspiration is easily readable.
Manolo Blahnik is not the only designer who got his floral heels inspiration from the Canary Islands. Paco Gil, a Spanish women’s shoe brand specializing in dressy shoes, recently included several high-heel sandals celebrating the many beauties of the Canaries in their Spring-Summer 2017 line-up. The peep-toe stiletto sandal above was named after Lanzarote, the fourth-largest Canary island. The sandal evokes Lanzarote’s color palette by contrasting purple-red and blue flowers with the russet ash color of the suede exterior. You can see the whole collection here.
I’ve got to say that I have never enjoyed floral heels more than when looking at these creations of Manolo Blahnik and Paco Gil. I love when shoes have a connection to something, when they tell a story. This story is about early love for one’s surroundings, deep appreciation of natural beauty, and heart-felt gratitude for the world we live in.