Described as better than sex by Madonna, and worn by everyone from Corinne Roitfeld and Carrie Bradshaw to Marge from The Simpsons, Manolo Blahnik is well and truly enshrined as an icon in the halls of luxury fashion history. So when we heard that he had produced an eco shoe, out of old fish skin of all things, we faltered, just slightly. But stranger things have happened, it seems. Manolo Blahnik might be an unlikely eco champion but he’s produced a range of sustainable shoes as part of a collaboration US-based eco-designer Marcia Patmos who has been designing gorgeous sustainable clothes since the late 90’s. Pushing all thoughts of fishy feet firmly out of our minds, we set out to find out more and spoke to representatives from both companies.
“The two Manolo Blahnik designs used in the Marcia Patmos Spring Summer 2012 runway show in NYC were based on Manolo's existing styles”, a spokesperson from the Blahnik office told us. “The materials used on these styles included Tilapia skin, raffia and cork which are considered sustainable.”
Raffia and cork are fairly traditional eco materials but the use of fish skin Talapia is quite interesting. Patmos told Womens Wear Daily “I love the idea of Talapia skin because it is a by-product of the food industry that would otherwise be discarded, but it's actually a beautiful material perfect for small leather goods". There will be a flat double strap sandal and high-heeled open toe pump, and both will be available in black, yellow, nude and bright blue.
The issue of sustainability in the luxury fashion industry is a thorny one. The luxury market and sustainable design should be BFF’s – the durability, rarity and the subsequent high price of luxury fashion should theoretically encourage us to buy less and wear more, and therefore be more sustainable.
However, over the last couple of decades whilst the high street was dogged by repeated sweatshop scandals, the luxury market got off scott free. As a result, many luxury brands lag far behind their high street counterparts in having any sort of published ethical policies.
This is new territory for Manolo Blahnik, and we were curious as to how the collaboration came about. A spokesperson from the Patmos team explained to us “We reached out to the Manolo team to see if they'd be interested in working with us and showed them our ideas and they were super excited… having a brand like Manolo Blahnik involved with this project definitely helps to raise more awareness of sustainability amongst the luxury market”. It is unclear whether there will be any further collaboration between Blahnik and Patmos in future, but we hope it is a sign of things to come.
The luxury sector clearly has a long way to go, but these shoes, although only available in the US, are a teeny step in the right direction, and it’s about time. We say, more from where that came from please, Manolo!
So, what do you think about luxury brands using more sustainable materials? Should more be doing it or should they be staying away from the traditionally unstylish (although of course I’d beg to differ!) eco movement like the plague?
- By Hannah Bullivant