A bonafide genius, Manolo Blahnik is one of the greatest shoe designers of our time who makes the sexiest shoes in the world. After an illustrious career spanning over 50 years, Manolo Blahnik has established himself as the finest purveyor of feminine styles and excellent craftsmanship. His refusal to delegate (he’s still the creative director and chairman of the company) has led to an oeuvre of classic women’s shoes defined by glamor and beautiful coherency that’s hard to imitate. Manolo Blahnik shoes are every woman’s fantasy and dream. So, how did this student of international law become the indisputable star of the luxury footwear industry?
Born in 1942 in Canary Islands, Spain, Manolo Blahnik had a Czech father and a Spanish mother whose family owned a banana plantation where he and his little sister grew up. As a child, Manolo’s first exposure to footwear designing was seeing his mother — a fashionable woman — design her shoes with the help of a local cobbler. Subsequently, Manolo, too, in all his childhood innocence, started making shoes using the aluminum wrappers of his chocolate candies for the lizards that roamed around in his garden.
He went to the University of Geneva to study Politics and Law, honoring his parent’s wish for him to become a diplomat. However, he abandoned the subject after the first semester to instead major in Literature and Architecture. Eventually, his interest in art took him to Paris, where he studied set design at the Louvre Art School and became close friends with renowned jewelry designer Paloma Picasso. In 1969, Manolo shifted to London and started working at Zapata, which is a known London boutique, and later at Vogue Italia as a writer.
But, things really perked up in 1970 when Manolo Blahnik took a short trip to New York and made an acquaintance with the then editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Diana Vreeland. On seeing some of his set and theatrical designs, she aptly noticed Manolo’s prowess in designing shoes. It was her who encouraged him to pursue footwear designing as a full-time occupation.
“Diana Vreeland was a paramount force in my career; she was the one who told me to disregard my idea of working in theatre and film design and concentrate on making shoes…” – Manolo Blahnik
Subsequently, in 1971, he designed his first collection for the then famous British designer Ossie Clark. After briefly studying shoemaking from actual factory workers to hone the craft, Manolo Blahnik opened his first boutique in 1973 on Old Church Street in Chelsea.
Fame and Popularity
The originality and old-world charm of his shoes swiftly brought success and popularity to Manolo Blahnik. He became the first male to be featured on the cover of Vogue magazine in 1974. One of the most iconic moments for Manolo Blahnik shoes was when Bianca Jagger — a loyal customer and friend — wore a pair during her famous entrance into Studio 54 on a white horse. The glory days for this Spanish designer had just begun. In 1983, he expanded and opened his first store in New York, distributing only to reputable retailers such as Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus. Soon, Manolo Blahnik shoes started appearing on runways of famous designers like Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Isaac Mizrahi, Yves Saint Laurent, and John Galliano.
Stiletto heels were indeed his area of expertise. During the 70s, when platforms and wedges were the fad, Manolo Blahnik unapologetically favored heels, calling the former “boorish and inelegant”. He encouraged his customers to embrace a more subtle sense of femininity and wear heels. Hence, his genuine passion for feminine styles is beautifully evident in his shoes that are primarily graced with charming elements and embellishments, exuding innate delicacy and royal taste.
He considers himself to be an artisan rather than an artist as he is not only limited to conceptualizing and designing but is equally involved in the whole process of bringing that design to reality. Every prototype of the shoe is made by Manolo Blahnik himself and is afterward copied precisely by the factory craftspeople. And we believe it is because of this engrossed participation every Manolo Blahnik shoe is given a unique name by the designer himself.
Love from Celebrities and Movies
The popularity of Manolo Blahnik shoes reached a new height during the early 2000s thanks to the American sitcom Sex and the City. The shoes have almost become synonymous with the protagonist, Carrie Bradshaw, who expressed her love for ‘her Manolos’ throughout the series. And it was not the only time that Manolo Blahnik shoes have made an on-screen appearance; their magic goes far beyond. Movies like Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet, The Devil Wears Prada, and Marie Antoinette had a sweet Manolo moment that was hard to miss.
In addition to reel life, Manolo Blahnik shoes have complemented the excellence of many outstanding women in real life as well, including Princess Diana, Kate Moss, Rihanna, and Anna Wintour.
5 Most Popular Manolo Blahnik Shoes For Women
Manolo Blahnik Hangisi
The most iconic style from Manolo Blahnik is undoubtedly the Hangisi. Immortalized by Carrie Bradshaw, Hangisi is the paradigm of the perfect women’s shoe. It was introduced in the Spring/ Summer collection 2008, and today nearly every discerning shoe lover owns a Hangisi. They are also the ultimate choice for designer wedding shoes with the sparkly embellished buckle on the pointed toes and elegant exterior wreathed in the luscious fabrication.
Manolo Blahnik BB
Also introduced in 2008, BB is named after the fashion icon, Brigitte Bardot. It’s Manolo’s ingenuity and sophisticated taste that has turned a simple court shoe like BB into an object of desire for millions of women. BB shoes are a classic defined by timeless elements like pointed toes and stiletto heels.
Channeling the unrestrained romanticism of Manolo Blahnik through embellishments that evoke feminine beauty, Lurum has become the quintessential party shoe, striking a lovely balance between style and practicality. Eye-pleasing crystals adorn the pointed-toe vamp and the strap near the ankle, while the stiletto heel reiterates Manolo’s signature style.
Manolo Blahnik Nadira
An elegant and glamorous shoe presented in a feminine silhouette, Nadira is at once vintage and modern. Where the evergreen pointed toe design coupled with high heels kindles an old-world nobility, the stunning ornamentation on the toe cleavage signals a sense of daring sensuality.
Manolo Blahnik Chaos
Gracefully tapping the barely-there sandal trend, Chaos is a red carpet favorite. This minimalist shoe balances modern requirements with utter sophistication and speaks volumes through a fusion of bold and subtle colors. Chaos offers everyday elegance in true Manolo style.
Just like the shoes he designs, Manolo Blahnik’s career has also been adorned with embellishments. His many awards and honors include three CFDA awards, two BFC awards, and Honorary CBE from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2007. Manolo Blahnik believes in fantasies, and his shoes evoke a similar desire in the women who wear them. From understated staple styles to fashion must-haves, Manolo Blahnik shoes effortlessly traverse the extremities of classic and avant-garde.