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: 'London made me'Evening Standard, February 5th
Manolo Blahnik is wearing a two-piece suit the colour of purple sherbet, with a matching roll-neck jumper. His skin is tanned and his brown eyes sparkle preternaturally from behind his Cutler and Gross glasses. It's a strong look and one that matches...Read more
Manolo Blahnik reveals his fantasy of designing for Helen of Troy as he opens ...The Independent, February 4th
"I don't want glasses, they're full of bacteria and things. A bottle you know it hasn't been touched by human hands. Because humans can be very filthy, you know," Manolo Blahnik welcomes me to his new London shop while drinking from a bottle of water, ...Read more
Manolo Blahnik Toasts Store, French Sole and Alice Naylor-Leyland Launch Tie-inWWD, February 3rd
The new Manolo Blahnik boutique is nearby to Penhaligon's, Church's, Maison Michel, Lulu Guinness and Chanel Beauty. “We are used to doing things by hand and so do the people at Church's or Penhaligon's, a company which I love because it's ...Read more
Manolo's Muses And Shoes Come To MayfairVogue.co.uk, February 3rd
MANOLO BLAHNIK is almost as famous for his fabulous anecdotes as for his fabulous shoes - and grinning as he holds court in his new store in Mayfair's Burlington Arcade, his stories are as colourful as his heels. Inside Manolo Blahnik's Burlington...Read more
Manolo Blahnik on his love for Anna Wintour and British womenTelegraph.co.uk, January 30th
With a moniker such as his, Manolo Blahnik was never going to be a bank manager, a teacher or an accountant. No: Manolo Blahnik was destined to make shoes. His name sounds like an an exotic dish featuring truffle, its cadence pleasing to enunciate...Read more
Manolo Blahnik Documentary in the WorksVariety, January 28th
A documentary about influential shoe designer Manolo Blahnik is in production with Michael Roberts directing and Nevision Studios One Limited producing. Content Media will launch worldwide sales at the Berlin Film Festival on the film, titled “Manolo...Read more
Join Us In Conversation With Manolo BlahnikVogue.co.uk, January 27th
TO celebrate the new Manolo Blahnik store opening in the prestigious Burlington Arcade, Vogue's executive retail editor, Ginnie Chadwyck-Healey, will be in conversation with the man himself in the new boutique - and you are invited. A sketch of inside...Read more
Manolo Blahnik To Bow Store In London's Burlington ArcadeFootwear News, January 25th
Manolo Blahnik is the latest luxury name to land at London's Burlington Arcade, the 19th-century shopping parade next to the Royal Academy that's recently undergone a major refurbishment. The shop, Blahnik's second in London, will open early next month ...Read more