If you are a fan of “Sex and the City,” then you have undoubtedly heard of Manolo Blahnik. Manolo Blahnik is a shoe designer who was born in the Canary Islands on November 27, 1942. He studied art and fashion in Geneva and Paris before launching his career in the fashion industry. His unique and artistic perspectives on shoe design have allowed Blahnik to make a name for his shoes in countries around the world. Today, his shoe designs are legends, and his vintage and contemporary designs still remain big sellers in the fashion capitals of the world such as New York, Paris and Tokyo.
Manolo Blahnik Gets His Start
Like most great fashion designers, Manolo Blahnik did not start out designing independently. After graduating from the University of Geneva, he spent some time in Paris studying fashion. He got a job in a little London boutique called Zapata in 1968. His position in this boutique provided him with the exposure that he needed to develop his understanding of the fashion world, which he used to write for Vogue Italia.
His entrance into the world of shoe design occurred as the result of an infamous meeting with Diana Vreeland. She took a look at his fashion portfolio and told him flat out that his forte was in shoe design. For shoe lovers the world round, this was an epiphany that lead to the development of one of the most famous shoe lines in the world.
“It will never sell in London,” Manolo Blahnik sighs, cradling the silk-and-fur mule. “You know. The British. Animal rights. No foxhunting. No shooting birds. It is crazy.” He huffs. Looks hurt. “They won’t buy this shoe, but—they’ll eat rabbits and poor little animals like that.” There is a giggle like the splash of water in a fountain.
Politically correct or not, there is an irresistible urge to pet this shoe; put it on a leash; take it to bed. It is a Manolo Blahnik high heel, and for more than 30 years, Blahnik has designed shoes that are the accessory to a fairy tale: Shoes made of rhinestones, feathers, sequins, buttons, bows, beads, grommets, rings, chains, ribbons, silk brocade, bits of coral, lace, fur (from farm-raised animals, he adds), alligator, ostrich—everything, perhaps, but woven unicorn forelock.Blahnik is a rara avis himself—an exotic hummingbird. He speaks in exclamation points. He will not sit still. He jumps up from the chair in his office with walls of dove-wing gray on King’s Road—a bird flushed from cover. He exclaims, enthuses—he is all flourishes, rococo gestures, exquisite manners; impossibly elegant, spotlessly groomed with silver hair combed straight back. There is the glen-plaid double-breasted suit, a purple-yellow-and-white knit tie, and—peeking out from the sleeve of a blue cotton shirt—a red crocodile band attached to a gold Swiss watch. The shoes are size 42 1?2 buckskin oxfords made for him at his factory in Milan. “I dress like a banker,” he says when asked if the suit is custom-made. (It is.)
The story has been told before, “but”—he shrugs—”it is the only story I have.” After studying art and literature in Geneva, Blahnik fell in with the fashion crowd in New York and met Diana Vreeland, the legendary editor of Vogue. Vreeland looked at his sketches. Do accessories—pretty little things, she said airily. And so he has. A “Manolo” is the Sex and the City shoe (in one episode Carrie realized she could have made a down payment on a New York apartment for what she spent on shoes), a generic term for a high heel, and the inspiration for Madonna’s remark that his shoes are as good as sex, and “last longer.”
Manolo’s, as they are dubbed, first debuted in 1972 and were designed for Ossie Clark. Through the years, they have claimed success – worn in the most important fashion shows worldwide including Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and John Galliano.
They have been most notably made famous on countless appearances on Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City”¦as the actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays the sex columnist, confides that she has spent over $40,000 a year on shoes (many of which include Manolo’s), but yet has no where to live. And, will seriously be that old woman who lives in her shoes!
Manolo Blahnik’s have a tendency to do that to women.In real life, SJP is just as crazy for Manolo’s. She has said that they (Manolo Blahnik shoes) are like pieces of art. No one can make a heel like he (Manolo Blahnik) does. I know that he’s fanatical, so that the quality of the shoes, the pitch, is just perfect. Manolos are beautiful, colorful, imaginative and sexy”¦Sarah Jessica Parker has stated.
The man behind the Manolo Blahnik shoe has everything to do with his fairly small company. He still sketches, still does the advertising campaigns and is still at the top of his game creating beautiful shoes, with extreme attention to detail, that any woman could relate to. The daytime styles like the perfect pointy toe sling backs couldn’t be more perfect.
Ferragamo insisted style was not enough; shoes must be comfortable. And Blahnik? What about complaints that his shoes are torture? “I haven’t heard that,” he responds. “Women tell me they love my shoes. Some never take them off.”
But isn’t a shoe really a corset for the foot?
“Yes. But a corset you adore.”
The mood shifts. Blahnik turns somber. The day before, an earthquake in Pakistan has killed 73,000, leaving uncounted injured, obliterating entire villages. The headlines weep tragedy. “I am embarrassed,” he says. “People are dying and I do these frivolous things.” The hand slaps his forehead as if in penance, then he opens a cupboard. There are six rows of shoes. They gleam like treasure. He lifts one out. “This one is inspired by Catherine the Great,” he explains, placing the shoe on the table for contemplation. It is a glorious fantasy of silk brocade, velvet ribbons, chinchilla: lush, powerful, yet fragile.
Still, it is pointed out, it is only a shoe.
Blahnik nods. “Yes, only a shoe, but if I provide escape for the woman who wears it, if for only a few minutes, it brings a bit of happiness to someone, well, then, perhaps, it is something more than a shoe.”
Born: Santa Cruz, Canary Islands, Spain, 27 November 1942. Education: Educated at home, University of Geneva, degree in literature, 1965; studied art in Paris, 1965-70.
Career: Jeans buyer for Feathers Boutique, London, early 1970s; encouraged to design shoes by Diana Vreeland; first collections for Zapata Boutique, London, and for Ossie Clark, early 1970s; opened London shop, 1973, opened New York boutique, 1981;
subsequent shops in Hong Kong, Tokyo; designed shoes for Anne Klein, 1994-95; opened five-story Manhattan headquarters for Blahnik USA, 1998; online boutique at NeimanMarcus.com , 2000;
teamed with Est?e Lauder to create nail lacquer for Golden Globes, 2001. Awards: Fashion Council of America award, 1988, 1991; British Fashion Council award, 1991; Balenciaga award, 1991; American Leather award, New York, 1991; Hispanic Institute Antonio Lopez award, Washington, D.C., 1991;Related posts: