This past weekend, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) once again welcomed editors, socialites, and the fashion obsessed to Georgia for its SCAD StyleLab fashion show— hosting a series of special events. Key affairs included an intimate panel discussion hosted by The New York Times‘ Eric Wilson with footwear legend Manolo Blahnik and Vogue contributing editor and member of SCAD’s board of trustees, André Leon Talley; a VIP cocktail reception at the Gutstein Gallery (where an impressive exhibit is on display, chronicling Blahnik’s career); and lastly, SCAD’s annual fashion show, highlighting the collections of the top graduating seniors.
During the candid conversation at Savannah’s historic Lucas Theatre, the esteemed fashion reporter, Wilson, led the larger-than-life Leon Talley and Manolo Blahnik (né Manuel Blahnik Rodríguez), through the scattered journey of the label’s formation. From marvelous anecdotes about their time strutting in fabulous threads on Fire Island; to illustrious muses like Diana Vreeland, Bianca Jaeger, Marisa Berenson (apparently, Raquel Welch has the most “fabulous feet”); to Blahnik’s inspirations, such as interior design, film, and his hero Yves Saint Laurent. Blahnik’s unembellished words of wisdom and charismatic tales gave passionate students and fans a peak into the shoe maven’s fanciful world.
As evening approached, the chic donned their wardrobes’ best and traipsed over to the Gutstein Gallery, home to an extensive Manolo Blahnik exhibit, titled manolo blahnik… the shoe. As smart attendants served cocktails, wines, and amuse-bouches– invited guests took pleasure in an exclusive preview of a mesmerizing display of nearly 70 pairs of shoes and rare prototype sketches from the Manolo Blahnik archives. After plenty of merriment, the coterie flowed on to Broughton Street, for the fashion show segment of the night.
Once the masses had taken their seats in Trustees Theater, SCAD president Paula Wallace welcomed Leon Talley onstage, who then presented Blahnik with the André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award. (Preceding recipients of the prize include fashion titans Oscar de la Renta, Karl Lagerfeld, Miuccia Prada, Tom Ford, Vera Wang, Marc Jacobs, John Galliano, Diane von Furstenberg, and Isabel and Ruben Toledo.)
With a career spanning more than 30 years, Manolo Blahnik has become a household name signifying the ultimate in footwear opulence and ingenuity. Today, with hundreds of points of sale and boutiques all over the world, Blahnik continues to design coveted heels, sandals, and boots for posh women worldwide. He still maintains tight surveillance of his longtime production factories in Milan and continues to lead his design team. Blahnik was previously awarded three CFDA Awards, an honorary CBE Order of the British Empire, and a Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award.
The designer bashfully thanked SCAD and president Wallace for the honor and once the applause subsided, the lights went dim and the imposing set for the 2011 SCAD fashion show was revealed. A runway-perfect, classical-remix beat was cued and over 100 varying looks stormed the runway. Creations of some two dozen talented graduates were shown, including men’s wear, women’s wear, accessories, and children’s wear.
A selection of the students who showed their work had been mentored through the SCAD StyleLab program, which pairs top-notch students with established and respected designers. This year, Rachael Roy (SCAD Atlanta), Christian Cota and Chris Benz (both SCAD Savannah), served as mentors. Past mentors are: designers Brian Wolk and Claude Morais of Ruffian, Yigal Azrouël, Lars Nilsson, Zac Posen, Bryan Bradley, Angel Sanchez, and Catherine Malandrino. The SCAD fashion show has become one of the premiere student fashion shows in the country. Design students involved undergo a cutthroat jury process, where their work is critiqued –from beginning to end—by top professionals in the fashion industry.