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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Manolo Blahnik Books First-ever Personal Appearance at Saks Fifth AvenueWWD, August 27th
SHOE IN: Manolo Blahnik will make his first-ever personal appearance at a Saks Fifth Avenue store next month. On Sept. 10 the stiletto-maker will appear within his Saks shop-in-shop boutique — located on the retailer's “10022” shoe floor — for a signing...Read more
Inside Saks Fifth Avenue's Haute New Manolo Blahnik ShopHaute Living, August 26th
You would think that Saks Fifth Avenue's dedicated shoe floor would have fancy footwear from every big name in the shoe biz— but one name has been left out until now. The legendary, Manolo Blahnik has rightfully taken his place at Saks with a 750...Read more
Manolo Blahnik shoe sale in Bantam raises $198K for UConn scholarshipsTorrington Register Citizen, August 25th
Manolo Blahnik shoe sale in Bantam raises $198K for UConn scholarships. A sample sale of high-end shoes in Bantam on Aug. 15 raised nearly $200,000 for scholarships for UConn animal science students. Photo by Susan Taff. By Special to The Register ...Read more
Saks ups 10022-Shoe's stride with Manolo Blahnik boutiqueLuxury Daily, August 24th
The shop-in-shop will be one of Manolo Blahnik's largest boutiques in the world as well as the first time the brand has been physically present within a Saks Fifth Avenue storefront. To introduce the boutique, Saks has taken a multichannel approach...Read more
Saks Flagship to Open Manolo Blahnik BoutiqueApparel Magazine, August 20th
For the first time, the Manolo Blahnik brand joins Saks New York's famed 10022-SHOE designer shoe salon on Eight with a permanent boutique, one of the largest Manolo Blahnik boutiques in the world. Saks Fifth Avenue will celebrate the momentous ...Read more
Saks Fifth Avenue to open a Manolo Blahnik boutique at flagship storeMarketWatch, August 20th
Saks Fifth Avenue, which is owned by Hudson's Bay Company HBC, -0.99% will open its first Manolo Blahnik boutique at the New York flagship store on August 22. The boutique will be housed in the eighth floor designer shoe salon and span 760 square feet, ...Read more
Manolo Blahnik: 5 Things You Didn't Know About The DesignerFootwear News, August 14th
Manolo Blahnik. "It is fashion that makes the world so much more colorful & interesting." Courtesy photo. Manolo Blahnik is at the top of the shoe game. The designer is prepping to open a shop-in-shop in Saks Fifth Avenue later this month — Blahnik's...Read more
Stella McCartney for the Olympics, Manolo Blahnik to Make Bags, and More News ...Observer, July 31st
Going for the gold, again: Stella McCartney will be outfitting Great Britain's olympic team for the 2017 games in Rio de Janeiro. This is the second time she's been tapped to design the award-winning kits. via Fashionista. Bag man: Manolo Blahnik is...Read more