Published: September 2006
Cathy Newman

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

Meeting Manolo was hands (or rather feet) down the highlight of an assignment filled with highlights. Manolo Blahnik is the top of the line when it comes to high-end fashion shoes. Although the article is about culture, I knew I had to include the element of fashion, which is very much about culture too. And so I set up an interview in London with the designer.

Big name fashion icons can be insufferably pompous and self-absorbed, but Manolo wasn't like that at all. He was utterly charming, funny, and wonderful to listen to—a delight. And he loves National Geographic; it was part of his life from childhood. So I gave him a copy of the fashion book that the Society published in 2001. He was sure it would be a great inspiration and source book for his shoe designs, he said, and, in return, he gave me a copy of his book of shoe drawings, which I prize.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

I bought a pair of Philippe Model shoes in Paris that ultimately proved to be too small for my feet. I am always doing that. They were chestnut brown flats, as sleek as the Concorde, and I got charmed somehow into thinking they would stretch. Of course they never did. Anyone want to buy a pair of size 9 ½ Medium flats?

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

I interviewed Natacha Morro, a London boot designer. But not just any boots. She specializes in fetish boots, the kind of thigh-high, black leather, lace-up footwear you might see on transvestites, cross-dressers, or even ordinary girls who just have a thing for kinky boots. She gave me my best line. We were talking about how shoes have a theatrical element to them and enable you to play different roles, and she said: "After all, you can't be a dominatrix in sneakers."