By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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Kulchur breaks out his camera and begins circling the table where Blahnik now stands, snapping shots of the designer patiently chatting with his admirers and signing their shoes. Fiftysomething Gloria Brenner is about to make the $465 Molenbambos the 51st pair of Blahniks sitting in her closet -- husband Leonard introduces her as Aventura's answer to Imelda Marcos. Brickell's Astrid Bismarck is a bit more removed from that terrain. "I can only get a couple a year," the twentysomething brunette explains, eyeing a pair of slingbacks. "But what can you say? They're the best shoes."
Suddenly the view is blocked. "Did you get a picture of me and Manolo?" a well-heeled woman breathlessly implores of Kulchur.
Uh, lady, I don't work for Neiman Marcus ...
"I want that photo! I'll give you $100 for it!"
But before Kulchur can explain any further, the woman's eyes narrow. Her grip around the tiny Shih Tzu dog cradled in her left arm tightens and she leans to within an inch of Kulchur's face. She repeats herself, firmly emphasizing each word: "I-want-that-photo!"
An eagle-eyed Neiman Marcus saleswoman spots the smackdown about to occur and smoothly intercedes, allowing Kulchur to carefully back away. Not all of Blahnik's devotees are quite this fanatical, but still, why do the ladies covet these particular shoes so much?
To Blahnik, the answer is simple. "I love women," he says matter-of-factly. "For me, it's all about making the woman look fantastic. When you put my shoe on there is an immediate act of transformation. It's instant! You walk fabulously because the high heel changes your sense of balance. Your whole body changes to be absolutely ultra-feminine." He pauses to laugh, "I don't want to get neurotic about this, after all they're just shoes for god's sake, but" -- here he raises a finger and turns serious -- "somehow they produce reactions that make women feel great."
He'll get no argument from the leggy blond housewife currently focused on some sleek turquoise heels. She has to leave shortly to pick up her son from school, she explains, but first she's going to demonstrate the true power of a pair of Blahniks. The woman -- we'll call her Mrs. Robinson -- slides her toes out of her old shoes and dips them into the heels. Extending her newly Blahnik-shod foot out for Kulchur's inspection, she coos: "Don't I look sexier now?" It's not meant as a question.