THE SHOE THAT NEVER DATES: WE EXPLORE THE ENDURING APPEAL OF THE MANOLO BLAHNIK HANGISI
What do a 19th century French empress and fictional New York columnist have in common?
This article was originally published on harpersbazaar.com
There are few fashion investments that are as relevant now as they were over two centuries ago, but Manolo Blahnik’s Hangisi shoe is one such sartorial outlier. Sure, this buckle-adorned pump was officially launched in the spring of 2008, but its design was influenced by the style of one Ms Joséphine Bonaparte – wife to Napoleon and arbiter of trends.
More on that later. After all, more instrumental than a Neoclassical empress in Hangisi’s history is a fictional New York columnist. Sex and the City’s 2008 film catapulted the shoe into the public consciousness when Mr Big proposes, Manolo in hand, to Carrie Bradshaw.
With its bejewelled buckle, it is easy to see how the Hangisi could be proffered in lieu of an engagement ring. And, just like a diamond, it does seem to have forever appeal – although it is in fact exactly 144 Swarovski crystals with which it is encrusted. There’s a proven alchemy in that almond-shaped toe, 105mm heel and subtly (somewhat sexily) scooped vamp – a combination that has served Blahnik well for decades.
Since its 2008 launch, the Hangisi has appeared in over 100 fabrics and colours – including denim, gingham and even a print featuring a Manhattan street map for the shoe’s 10-year anniversary – and transformed into mules, flats, d’Orsays and boots. It’s apt then, that ‘Hangisi’ means ‘Which one?’ in Turkish; there are enough variations for a sizeable collection, especially if you manage to hunt down the special editions on Vestiaire Collective or 1st Dibs.
After the Carrie proposal, the Hangisi pump became the preferred ‘something blue’ and/or ‘something new’ of many an SATC-adoring bride, including Olivia Palermo, who wore her midnight-blue pair with a tulle skirt and fine-knit at her 2014 wedding to model Johannes Huebl). And just last year, for the wedding scene in 2021’s House of Gucci, stylist Janty Yates chose the white version for Lady Gaga’s Patrizia Reggiani. The Hangisi’s popularity amongst those getting wed even prompted Blahnik to create the Hangisi Bride, crowning the existing, ivory-satin style with a turquoise-crystal buckle.
With its opulent brooch detail, the Hangisi seems like something from a different era – and certainly, it was inspired by one. Blahnik created the shoe after becoming beguiled by Italian artist Giovanni Boldini’s 19th-century portraits of Empress Joséphine and Pauline Bonaparte – or more specifically, their buckle-adorned shoes (likely made by The House of Leroy – the empress’s preferred couturier).
The Hangisi now boasts a greater number of famous wearers than the shoes that inspired it, including Naomie Harris, Sonam Kapoor, Emily Ratajkowski and Rihanna. And just like its predecessor, it too was immortalised in a significant painting when the Duchess of Cambridge opted for an emerald-green pair (to match her dress by The Vampire’s Wife) for her first official portrait with Prince William in June 2022.
Net-a-Porter and Farfetch repeatedly restock the Hangisi as an evergreen style, with the royal-blue and jade-green versions proving particularly popular – for obvious reasons. Here, we’ve rounded up our favourite new and preloved styles to buy now and love forever. Well, if it’s good enough for 19th-century empresses and Rihanna…