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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Sarah Jessica Parker talks shoes, partnership with Manolo's CEOLos Angeles Times, March 4th
Carrie Bradshaw, “Sex and the City's” shoe-loving character played by Sarah Jessica Parker, is often credited for familiarizing the masses with luxury footwear labels Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin. Now the 48-year-old Parker, whose ...Read more
Sarah Jessica Parker Designs Shoes with Manolo Blahnik's CEODaily Beast, February 28th
“In 1985, George [Malkemus, CEO of Manolo Blahnik] and Manolo [Blahnik] came to L.A. [for a] trunk show. There were like six of us there, it was pouring rain. I had like $400 and a credit card, and I bought six pairs of Manolo Blahnik shoes. And at...Read more
Manolo Blahnik Dishes; New Burberry Outlet Store Today; MoreEater, February 14th
GOLD COAST—Manolo Blahnik stopped by Barneys last week to sign shoes from his new XO capsule collection. We sat down with the man, the master, the shoemaker, to dish about Diana Vreeland, copycats, and more. ROSEMONT—Like plaid? You'll love ...Read more
Photos: Barry BrecheisenRacked, February 13th
On an excruciatingly cold day in February, Manolo Blahnik blew into Barneys Chicago. In a mint-green suit, red leather gloves, and a flurry of scarves, he sat down to chat with us before signing shoes for the 400 fans waiting below. The setting: a...Read more
Manolo Blahnik debuts at New York Fashion WeekToronto Sun, February 12th
Related Stories. Designer Michele Savoia's body found in river. Legendary shoe designer Manolo Blahnik shows off his Autumn-Winter 2014 collection in the Big Apple. Reader's comments ». By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and ...Read more
New York Fashion Week: Meet Manolo Blahnik's Macaron MakerWall Street Journal (blog), February 10th
Yes, that Manolo Blahnik. The legendary Spanish shoe designer is making a rare New York fashion week appearance. Mr. Blahnik's brand is, of course, well known, if not coveted by more people than just Carrie Bradshaw. But it isn't necessarily highly...Read more
Manolo Blahnik: For the Love of LizardsStyle.com, February 8th
Shoe lovers, rejoice: Manolo Blahnik will present his Fall '14 collection in New York for the very first time this Sunday. Having spent several seasons off the fashion calendar, Blahnik made a fashion week comeback in London for Spring '14, and suffice...Read more
What Do You Want to Ask Manolo Blahnik?Racked, February 7th
If you could ask Manolo Blahnik one question, what would it be? The crazily famous shoe designer will be at Barneys this afternoon, and we'll be chatting with him. Our mission: To get some scoop for you, the reader. So, let us know your burning...Read more