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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Global Fashion's Expanding Spheres of InfluencePRNewser, June 29th
While leading a tour of the show, curatorial assistant Elizabeth Way also pointed out that selected designers have transcended their country of origin, thanks to publicity. For example, the Spanish shoe brand Manolo Blahnik rose to international fame...Read more
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Photography: Melo Balingit; Kapatid actress Jasmine Curtis-Smith looking so sleek in a Dolce & Gabbana suit and Manolo Blahnik high heels. Photography: Melo Balingit; Kapuso actress Kris Bernal makes a grand entrancce wearing a black ball gown by ...Read more
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"Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue," which features photographs spanning 30 years at Vogue UK and American Vogue, as well anecdotes about working with everyone from Irving Penn to Naomi Campbell to Manolo Blahnik, according to Phaidon's ...Read more
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She cinched her waist with a wide leather belt and added nude Manolo Blahnik sandal heels. PHOTOS: Kim and Kanye's sweetest PDA moments. Pregnant Kim Kardashian and Kanye West enjoy a night out at Hakkasan restaurant in London on June 25...Read more
Ralph Lauren Toasts A Decade Dressing Wimbledon at Kensington PalaceWWD, June 23rd
Alice Eve, models Sam Rollinson and Charlotte Wiggins, Lily James, Manolo Blahnik, Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, Emily Mortimer, Matt Smith and Joanne Froggatt, who proclaimed she “came dressed as a Minion” in her yellow Ralph Lauren dress...Read more
Shoe Therapy? See How Manolo Blahnik And Jimmy Choo Refashion Freud At ...Forbes, June 23rd
Six centuries before Manolo Blahnik opened his first boutique, anonymous European craftsmen cobbled shoes that make his needle-thin stilettos seem tame. Pointy toes stretching nearly a foot beyond the wearer's feet were stuffed with moss in order to...Read more
The pleasure and pain of shoes: something afoot at the V&AThe Guardian, June 5th
Pool sandals, Mary Janes, Oxford brogues, stilettos … shoes seem to occupy a powerful place in our collective psyche. Ahead of a major exhibition, Kathryn Hughes reflects on sex, power, fetishism and the fascination of footwear. Manolo Blahnik...Read more
The 2008 Manolo Blahnik and the new SJP 'Maddalena' Pointy Toe Pump ...amNY, June 3rd
In "Sex and the City: The Movie" Carrie has somewhat of a Cinderella moment in her new penthouse apartment with a pair of Manolo Blahnik Satin Pumps, available in royal blue for $965 at Saks Fifth Avenue. While those were the "something blue" shoes to ...Read more