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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Dressing Like Kim Kardashian for a Week Gave This Elle Editor a ''Boost of ...E! Online, May 27th
Tuesday: J.Brand jeans ($218), Manolo Blahnik heels ($725). Wednesday (the most expensive day): APL kicks ($140), APL leggings ($88), APL zip-up ($135), Givenchy lace-up bodysuit ($2,600), leather trousers ($3,310). Thursday: Gianvito Rossi heels ...Read more
Sharon Konopka is stylish on a budget, tries trends with daughter's help ...cleveland.com (blog), May 27th
I would get either a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes or a really special coat, a beautiful leather coat. Have you ever had any memorable fashion moments? Years ago, we were going to a really nice restaurant with another couple. I wanted to look really nice...Read more
Fashion's Secret BlockbustersWall Street Journal, May 27th
Jennifer Sunwoo, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of Barneys New York, has Manolo Blahnik's “BB” pumps in three of the four heel heights that Barneys has on replenishment. Other Barneys replenishment items include leather ...Read more
Cobbler Startup Repairs Shoes Sent in From Across USWall Street Journal, May 26th
The average retail value of shoes they repair is from $600 to $1,000, and handbags from $2,000 to $4,000, according to the founders. The most common shoe brands are Christian Louboutin, Prada, Manolo Blahnik, Ferragamo and Gucci. About 65% of items ...Read more
Much to the Surprise of Everyone, Band of Outsiders Ceases ProductionNew York Observer, May 26th
Plus, he's engaged in collaborations with brands including Sperry Top-Sider, Olympia Le-Tan and Manolo Blahnik, which spans quite a vast market of consumers. But despite all that, there have been a few hints that business was amiss for the brand...Read more
Beyonce, Release That Rap Album You're Hiding From UsThe BoomBox, May 26th
The hip-hop influence was already setting in as Bey switched up her southern girl demeanor and opted for a New York Yankees fitted cap, a custom-made distressed denim dress and Manolo Blahnik Timbaland-style boots. Her new Brooklyn look matched ...Read more
Sarah Jessica Parker e l'aiuto chiesto a Manolo BlahnikDaringToDo, May 26th
Tutte cose di poco conto secondo lei però è pur vero che per lanciare la SJP collection ha voluto chiedere prima un consiglio a George Malkemus, CEO di Manolo Blahnik. Una chiamata di fortuna la sua a cui non si aspettava certo di ottenere una risposta...Read more
Manolo Kombat: Inside New York's Most Vicious Sample SalesNewsweek, May 14th
Though the Louboutin sale causes a notable ruckus, it does not have the same reputation as the Manolo Blahnik sale at the Warwick Hotel. The latter sale brings out the worst in New York's most cultured, stylish buyers—ones who have the privilege of ...Read more