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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Designer dinners: Fashion favourites - including Jean Paul Gaultier and Manolo ...The Independent, April 18th
MANOLO BLAHNIK. Favourite dish: 'Cocido Madrileño' (chickpea stew from Madrid). "I love it because it is the dish of my childhood. It reminds me of my roots and it simply tastes delicious. When I am in Madrid I always go to a restaurant called Lhardy...Read more
How Manolo Blahnik builds a biography for every shoeTelegraph.co.uk, April 17th
BY BIbby Sowray | 17 April 2014. Manolo Blahnik Photo: GETTY. Manolo Blahnik, aka the nicest man in fashion, has had a place in our hearts for years. But every now and then he does an interview which just acts to cement his position further. Like now...Read more
Colin's Column | Manolo Blahnik's Marvellous StoriesThe Business of Fashion, April 16th
BATH, United Kingdom — Manolo Blahnik, who in his variety and wit is surely the Mozart of shoemakers, leans forward confidentially and, almost in a whisper, says he is going to tell me something absolutely shocking. I also lean forward, anxious to...Read more
Manolo Blahnik: high heels and high spiritsHerald Scotland, April 4th
He's a character, that's for sure. One that's warm and instantly lovable, brimming with as much personality, excitement and colour as the coveted shoe collections he creates. He has impeccable manners (he addresses me at first as "the lady Elizabeth...Read more
Sarah Jessica Parker co-creates new shoe range with Manolo Blahnik CEOBusiness Standard, April 3rd
Sarah Jessica Parker, who won four Golden Globes for her portrayal of the sassy New York columnist in the six-year series 'Sex And The City', is delighted when Manolo Blahnik chief executive, George Malkemus, "took on this little pipsqueak" to create a ...Read more
If the shoe fits...Sarah Jessica Parker teams up with Manolo Blahnik CEOCNN, April 2nd
(CNN) -- "You can take my Fendi Baguette, you can take my ring and my watch, but don't take my Manolo Blahniks," begs Carrie Bradshaw while being mugged at gunpoint. It's no use. The heartless thief takes her precious strappy sandals anyway...Read more
Manolo Blahnik Talks Sex & The City, Princess Diana And StilettosMyDaily UK, March 24th
Manolo Blahnik, the man about the fabulous heels, has definitely made his mark on the fashion industry. The 71-year-old Spanish shoe designer talks Sex & The City, Princess Diana, relationships and the art of the stiletto itself in an interview with...Read more
Manolo Blahnik: 'Relationships for me are a real no-no'The Guardian, March 22nd
Elizabeth Taylor gave me invaluable advice. It was 1990 and I was about to accept an award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America – it was all very grand and I was backstage, nervous as hell. She put her hand on my back and leaned in and said...Read more