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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Valentino Moves to Bal Harbour; Hermès Comes to Design DistrictOcean Drive Magazine, November 27th
Themes in the collection range from distressed denim and ponchos to butterfly motifs like a Manolo Blahnik butterfly printed Hangisi pump and a butterfly adorned Prada bag, playing off of Neiman Marcus' signature butterfly design. Bal Harbour Shops...Read more
10 momentos marcantes da carreira do sapateiro de luxo Manolo BlahnikGlamurama, November 27th
Manolo Blahnik é sinonimo de luxo quando o assunto é sapato – e hoje o sapateiro das estrelas completa 73 anos. Nascido em La Palma, na Espanha, estudou na Suíça e na França e iniciou a carreira em Londres, onde começou a calçar praticamente todo ...Read more
Exclusive interview: Manolo Blahnik tells us about his love of Bath ahead of ...Bath Chronicle, November 13th
On November 25, Bath will be treated to a rare glimpse into the life and work of iconic shoe designer Manolo Blahnik. Ahead of his In Conversation evening, he tells Lisa Evans why he's a true feminist, what's on his Christmas list, and why he chose to...Read more
Manolo Blahnik and Liberty London Celebrate Collaboration, Host Book SigningWWD, November 12th
SEEING DOUBLE: There was a double cause for celebration at Liberty this week, which invited customers to a Manolo Blahnik book signing in its shoe hall. It was the designer's only appearance in London to promote his book, “Fleeting Gestures and ...Read more
Manolo Blahnik Sample Sale In West HartfordHartford Courant, November 9th
The sale is a scholarship fundraiser for UConn animal science students. George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis, both top executives at Manolo Blahnik, donated the shoes and established the scholarship to help promote agriculture and the dairy industry...Read more
At Manolo Blahnik's Surprise Sample Sale, Shoppers Are Scooping Up Heels by ...Racked NY, November 4th
By 10:45am, no line had formed yet at the Warwick Hotel, the venue for the just-announced Manolo Blahnik sample sale, but hotel lobby attendants directed us without asking to the second floor as soon as we dashed into the building. While the sale wasn...Read more
First Look: Manolo Blahnik Spring 2016 Shoe CollectionFootwear News, November 3rd
Manolo Blahnik is beloved for bucking trends and conventions, always preferring to go his own way. Spring '16 was no exception, with the designer only showing his collection to press late last week. But what's that they say about good things coming to...Read more
Hong Kong-raised architect on designing interiors for Manolo BlahnikSouth China Morning Post (subscription), October 31st
"One of our first was an exhibition [of Manolo Blahnik shoes, in 2003] at London's Design Museum that I created with my then partner and co-founder Kristina Hulsebus, whose uncle, Blahnik, commissioned us. On the back of that we started designing his ...Read more