A banana plantation in the Canary Islands is not the first place most people would associate with high fashion, but that’s where acclaimed shoe designer Manolo Blahnik grew up. Based in London since 1968, Blahnik left his home in Santa Cruz de la Palma in 1965 to study architecture at the University of Geneva and art at L’École du Louvre in Paris.
This unique confluence of rural upbringing and cosmopolitan interests endeared Blahnik to friends like Paloma Picasso who, in 1971, introduced him to Diana Vreeland, the then-editor of “Vogue.” “Your shoes in these drawings are so amusing,” she famously told Blahnik after looking through his portfolio. “Go make shoes.”
Make shoes he did, designing for a boutique in Chelsea called Zapata, which he bought and renamed after himself in 1973. The financing for the purchase was the result of Blahnik’s first big break in 1972, when 1960s fashion icon Ossie Clark invited him to design shoes for his latest collection. Blahnik never looked back.
Blahnik’s shoes have always had one foot, if you will, in fashion and the other in architecture. A very early design from 1971 for Kansai Yamamoto featured a brick-shaped shoe made out of cork and covered in patent leather. In 1976, a shoe called Guge featured straps that were inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
At other times in his career, Blahnik has treated his shoes almost as figures, bedecking a simple blue mule from the 1980s, for example, with a contrasting coral necklace on the vamp. His slides and slippers often drip with costume jewels until they resemble a Miriam Haskell or Trifari confection from the 1930s, ’40s, or ’50s. No wonder noted collectibles author Judith Miller has described Blahnik’s shoes as “jewelry for the feet.”
One of the last one-man operations in the fashion industry, Blahnik is known for his craftsmanship and attention to even the smallest details. Despite his success, he carves the wooden lasts (or molds) for his shoes himself, as well as the heels. And even though he has a factory in Italy turning out his high-heel pumps, mid-heel halters, and sandals with vine-like ankle wraps, the handwork on Manolos, as they are collectively known, is so extensive that less than 100 pair are produced a day.
Over the years, Manolos have accented the fashions of everyone from Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior to Calvin Klein and Isaac Mizrahi. Clients have included two of Mick Jaggar’s wives (Bianca and Jerry Hall), Princess Di, Jackie O., Madonna, and Marge Simpson who, though not a client in the strict sense, reveals the extent of Blahnik’s reach into popular culture. Indeed, the obsession of the Carrie Bradshaw character in “Sex and the City,” which debuted in 1998, made Manolo Blahnik a household name.
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Designer Giving: Luxury Meets NecessityBarron's, August 22nd
What's the best thing to do with a dated pair of Manolo Blahnik sling-backs? You could sell them on eBay, or leave them with a consignment shop, or toss them in a bin for the Salvation Army. But more and more fashionistas are taking another route: They...Read more
Expecting twins, she accessorizes for signature looksThe News Journal, August 22nd
SECOND OUTFIT: Beaded turquoise party dress from Macy's; silver starfish jewelry, necklace from Macy's and earrings by Elsa Peretti from Tiffany; Pandora and Alex and Ani bracelets; patent leather Mary Janes by Manolo Blahnik (extra cool because they ...Read more
Carrie would be proud! Sarah Jessica Parker finds her fashion feet with second ...Daily Mail, August 22nd
Sarah Jessica Parker's second SJP shoe collection is here - and Carrie Bradshaw would be proud. The latest styles pay tribute to the actress's friends, as well as her New York City home. One statement boot, the 'Pat', is named after Sex And The City's ...Read more
The Male Supermarket Shopper Is Worth A Scientific StudyHartford Courant, August 22nd
A few women complained that all of those mentioned were women. I make no apologies for this. The vast majority of supermarket shoppers are women. I mean, if the Manolo Blahnik fits … Although men make up only a small portion of supermarket clientele, ...Read more
Houston fashion fans meet style icon Sarah Jessica ParkerKTRK-TV, August 21st
Parker partnered with San Antonio native and president of Manolo Blahnik, George Malkemus, on the SJP collection. Parker's role as Carrie Bradshaw on "Sex and the City" helped make the Manolo Blahnik shoe famous, which made partnering with ...Read more
Harrods' Shoe Heaven: A celestial experience with Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik ...The Independent, August 13th
Notwithstanding the dedicated express elevator – the interior of which is wall-to-wall clouds – the newly installed Shoe Heaven at Harrods is not your traditional celestial experience. But for devotees who think of Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik and...Read more
The boutique's discreet exterior; Photo by Brian HarkinRacked NY, July 28th
Madison Avenue Spy writes that the Manolo Blahnik boutique sale kicks off today, which in the past has offered discounts of up to 75% off retail prices. Last year, that meant that most of the shoes ranged from $195 to $325—not as good as sample sale...Read more
Harrods Shoe Heaven To Open With Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin ...Pursuitist, July 28th
The biggest shoe department will boast of 17 boutiques including the likes of Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada and Valentino. Another fifty brands including Nicholas Kirkwood, Charlotte Olympia...Read more