Manolo Blahnik: The Story of a Legend
Manolo Blahnik: the story of a legend
Written by Hannah Mae Webster
Manolo Blahnik is one of the most iconic and respected footwear designers in the world, with the exquisitely elegant designs gaining a great amount of attention throughout the years. Manolo Blahnik was born in 1942 in the Canary Islands and moved to Paris with the aim of becoming a set designer in 1965. Blahnik was passionate about shoe design, but it wasn’t until an encounter with Diana Vreeland, a few years later, that Blahnik was encouraged to pursue a career in shoe design. Diana Vreeland told Blahnik, “Young man, stick to the extremities and make shoes!” Manolo Blahnik’s shoes attracted masses of attention thanks to the various famous names that flaunted his stunning designs, such as Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenberg, Kate Moss, Paloma Picasso, and Bianca Jagger.
Manolo Blahnik & Anna Wintour
Any follower of Anna Wintour’s style will recognise that she has worn the same Manolo Blahnik shoe design since the 90s. The strappy nude heels, now nicknamed the ‘AW’, remain a staple in Anna Wintour’s wardrobe, and Manolo Blahnik commented, “Anna always likes to have her shoes, like everything in her wardrobe, impeccable at all times”.
Manolo Blahnik is not only highly respected by Wintour in a professional sense, but also as a friend. Anna Wintour was one of his first customers, and they forged a friendship during the 80s, with Anna’s loyalty aiding his success.
Anna Wintour commented, “Manolo Blahnik is quite simply one of the greatest shoe designers of all time. I need hardly note that the word ‘Manolos’ has entered the language as a synonym for fabulous footwear.”
In 1971, Blahnik created his first shoe collection for one of the most important designers of the time, Ossie Clark. Clark was a British designer who played a key role in the Swinging Sixties era of fashion, and his work has influenced many designers including Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford, and Anna Sui. Blahnik’s association with Ossie Clark played an important role in his initial recognition and success. Following the 1983 opening of his store on West 54th Street, New York, Manolo Blahnik started designing for the runway. Blahnik created collections for designers including Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein.
“He’s more than a shoe designer: he’s a multi-disciplinary artist. For him, the world is a theatre and we are the spectators … I love him.” – Bianca Jagger
Manolos on Screen
Manolo Blahnik was often name-dropped on the show, ‘Sex and the City’, with Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie Bradshaw, effortlessly increasing the designer’s popularity.
“By now I can run a marathon in a pair of Manolo Blahnik heels. I can race out and hail a cab. I can run up Sixth Avenue at full speed.” – Sarah Jessica Parker
Manolo Blahnik shoes featured in ‘Sex and the City’ included:
Blahnik designed the dazzlingly luxurious shoes for Sofia Coppola’s 2006 movie, ‘Marie Antoinette’.
“Manolo Blahnik noun: artist, inventor, artisan. Shoes-boots-mules-sandals-magic-maker. adjective: creative, artistic, extravagant, classy, elegant, genial, unique, eccentric, chic, styled, glamorous.” – Franca Sozzani
Manolo Blahnik Today
Manolo Blahnik shoes remain highly desired, with classic designs still experiencing high demand. However, unique designs are also emerging that maintain the iconic shape, whilst introducing a greater element of drama in the details. In 2021, Manolo Blahnik celebrated 50 years in fashion, and created an all-gold collection to appropriately mark the occasion.