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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How Kim Kardashian made her millionsNEWS.com.au, July 4th
So she took out a loan with her father, Robert Kardashian, to buy five pairs of Manolo Blahnik shoes that cost $750 a pair. “I sold each pair on eBay for $2,500.” Given that acumen, what financial advice does she have for millennials? “I was fortunate...Read more
“Vanity Fair” Welcomes “the Next Manolo Blahnik” to ColetteStyle.com, July 3rd
“He's the new Manolo Blahnik,” declared Virginie Mouzat as guests including Carine Roitfeld, Tom Pecheux, Elie Top, Olivier Chatenet, and Hugo Matha braved the stifling heat to welcome Paul Andrew to Paris at Colette last night. To mark his debut in...Read more
Protecting women?s investment in pricey footwearBend Bulletin, July 2nd
The clear shield captures dirt that otherwise would become embedded in the sole. Jackson's business, located in a small warehouse office in Milwaukee, targets women who buy expensive shoes from designers such as Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik...Read more
Bkr Tries to Make Drinking Water More ChicBloomberg, July 2nd
The Bkr (pronounced “beaker”) works with a pair of Nikes, just as an oversize four-figure handbag once did with Manolo Blahnik heels. At Neiman Marcus, the bottles ($42 for the liter size; $30 for 500ml) are sold on the beauty floor alongside floral...Read more
The Barneys Summer Sale: Everything Worth Buying IRLRacked NY, June 30th
Tons of shoes are on sale right now, including big brands like Chanel, Louboutin, and Manolo Blahnik. The bad? There are no handbags on sale in the store—everything's online instead. On the fifth floor shoe salon, sale shoes are located to the right...Read more
Pregnant Kim Kardashian's Latest Maternity Style Is Her Tightest Yet: See the ...Us Magazine, June 26th
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
From the Archives: Manolo Blahnik On His Favorite ThingsFootwear News, June 23rd
On July 5, 1973, Footwear News featured a sexy Manolo Blahnik high-heel sandal on page one, calling it “the most talked-about shoe in London.” It was the fledgling designer's first big splash in this publication. Fast forward 38 years to 2011, when we...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