Read here the story of Manolo Blahnik; the King of Shoes
After more than four decades making women feel absolutely fantastic with the most beautiful - and comfortable - shoes ever, Manolo Blahnik is opening his first men’s shop.
Mr Blahnik, the “king of shoes”, needs no introduction. He is in fact so well-known that his creations can be recognised from far and go by the nickname “Manolos”. Even the Manhattan mugger in Sex in the City could tell Carrie Bradshaw was wearing the famous shoe brand when he demanded she gave him her sandals. The desperate New Yorker cries “ You can take my bag - a Fendi baguette if you must know - my jewellery, but please, don’t take my Manolo Blahniks!”
Manolo Blahnik was born and grew up on the Canary Islands. His Spanish mother was a painter and very imaginative, like her son. He recalls that she once invented some kind of shoes made with pieces of chiffon she had. The young boy loved playing in the garden; he would capture lizards and make them shoes out of aluminium foil from Cadbury chocolate wrappings!
His Austro-Hungarian father felt it was time to send him and his sister to finish their education in Geneva. He remembers spending there all his pocket money on fashion magazines.
At 21, Manolo went to Paris where he worked in an antique business and met Paloma Picasso. The two became great friends. In the 70’s, he moved to London, that’s where all was happening, and he met all sorts of creative people, including Mick and Bianca Jagger, and Rupert Everett who became a close friend and says that Blahnik shoes for men are “ like slightly more feminine versions of the women’s shoes.”
In London, Blahnik experienced such freedom as never before, and while the hippie movement was going strong, Blahnik went around dressed as elegantly as a Sicilian noblemen coming straight out of the novel “Il Gattopardo”, which by the way, he still loves and watches the movie twice, every year!
But, going back to the beginning; when Manolo Blahnik went with Paloma Picasso to New York, he was introduced to the iconic editor of American Vogue, Diana Vreeland. The young designer was so impressed that he couldn’t utter a single word, but he did show her his portfolio. At that time, Blahnik said, he still wasn't sure what he wanted to do, he could have been anything, interior designer, theatrical set designer, but Vreeland told him to concentrate on his shoe designs, and the rest is history!
His flagship store in Chelsea was the meeting point in London; people such as Anna Wintour, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, would go there to chat with him for hours as he seemed always to be there. He’s collaborated with uncountable fashion designers, namely Ossie Clark and John Galliano and he was the first man to appear on the cover of Vogue Magazine! When Princess Diana wore Manolos to the Serpentine Gallery, that’s when he really became a household name!
In the 80’s Blahnik opened his New York store and his are most of the shoes we see at all red carpet events. Celebrities love his creations; not only are they incredibly beautiful and sexy but also, so comfortable you forget you're wearing the highest heels. Madonna once said that “his shoes are as good as sex and they last longer”.
Blahnik also collaborated with film director Sofia Coppola; he made 23 pairs of breathtaking shoes for the movie Marie Antoinette, which won the Academy Award for Best Costume. Coppola chose Manolo after asking herself “who would Marie Antoinette ask to do her shoes today? She would ask Blahnik.”
Blahnik, now 75, lives in Bath and still works every day. He’s designed more than 30.000 pairs of shoes so far and says he loves the part of decorating the footwear. His sister Evangelina and her daughter work with him, taking care of the family business while Manolo continues designing and making the samples himself, and only after giving the final touches with his own hands, he sends the samples to production.
After so many years of making women look fabulous with his luxurious yet absurdly comfortable creations, he hasn’t gotten tired of it and says that what he loves the most is spending the days in his factories.
Photos via Instagram