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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Flashy photo book case of shoe and tellPueblo Chieftain, December 20th
Shakespeare mentions high heels in “Hamlet,” former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised them and fashion designers from Dior to Manolo Blahnik have bewitched women and men with their versions. This photo provided by DelMonico Books ...Read more
'Sex and the City' Star Sarah Jessica Parker Returning to HBO With New Series!Life & Style Weekly, December 20th
SJP, who won us all over with her portrayal as Manolo Blahnik-loving sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw in 'SATC' from 1998 – 2004, would play a middle-aged woman who starts to dabble with the idea of divorce after her recently single friends bring it up...Read more
Killer Heels review: a fun history of the fashion for high heelsSouth China Morning Post (subscription), December 20th
Shakespeare mentions high heels in Hamlet, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg praised them, and designers from Christian Dior to Manolo Blahnik have bewitched women and men with their versions. Killer Heels is a luxurious, fun and sexy look at ...Read more
Tabitha Simmons: shoesmith to the starsThe Times (subscription), December 19th
But Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo hadn't walked the proverbial mile in their teetering creations – and that's why, in the past five years, a vanguard of female shoe designers have brought the industry to heel. What's more, they're...Read more
Shoes That Go Splat—In a Good WayGulfshore Life, December 18th
I've long been a fan of the “splattered paint/artist” collections designers create. From Tory Burch a few years ago when I was there producing Fashion's Night Out for her to making windows in Greenwich Village and Soho for Ralph Lauren's Picasso...Read more
11 Times Anna Wintour's Feet Were Totally Falling Out Of Her Manolo Blahniks!PerezHilton.com, December 17th
If you love Anna Wintour as much as we do, then you may have noticed her ubiquitous Manolo Blahnik slingback sandals. You may also have noticed that these sandals don't fit the Vogue editor's feet very well. Her pinky toes are almost always falling out...Read more
Jean Paul Gaultier and Manolo Blahnik create 'artistic' Eastpak backpacks for ...The Independent, November 28th
Eastpak has teamed up with some of the world's top designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, MSGM and Manolo Blahnik to create an "artistic collection" in support of World's Aids Day. Eastpak Artist Studio showcases 16 unique customised backpacks, which ...Read more
Beauty editor goes 'full-on crazy' at Manolo Blahnik sample salePage Six, October 29th
Fashion editors became ferocious at the annual Manolo Blahnik sample sale on Wednesday, including one pushy beauty editor who went “full-on crazy.” The one-day, deep-discount sale annually sparks hysteria among fashionistas, and this year's event on ...Read more