Friday, November 20, 2009


While most of us love the objet d’art of the stiletto, rarely do we think about the technology of its design. Here is some food for thought:

The technical must-haves for designing a stiletto have reached new heights as we are hear terminology like ABS, something most of us know to be the braking system in our car.

As heels reach 15 and 16 centremeters there has never been a greater emphasis on strength and endurance - of both the heel and the shank. Many give the credit for that stronger heel to ABS, or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, a polymer developed by a U.S. government team working on synthetic rubber after World War II.

The material is used by many infamous designers, including Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik, a pioneer in the contemporary shoe designer pantheon, although Blahnik draws the line at 15 centremeter heels. “115 is the highest heel to walk properly and comfortably,” the British-based designer said. “You have grace and femininity.”

Blahnik’s heels, which he likes to describe as “spindly,” have a central steel rod surrounded by ABS plastic and a polyurethane tip at the bottom. And to attach them firmly to the shoe, artisans in his factories position five nails, each one at a 7-degree angle and about 8 millimeters apart. Such intimate knowledge of construction and architecture helps, a little, to justify the price point of Manolos.

While many shoe designers now employ architectural programs like CAD to assist with the design stage, Blahnik is a traditionalist, using a compass, a ruler, his eyes and hands.

Long live the traditionalist!

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