If you were regularly watching Sex In The City during its original run then you might have noticed the main character Carrie Bradshaw’s particular love for Manolo Blahnik high heel shoes…a lot of times over. It was arguably a great free plugging of Manolo Blahnik shoes from the long-running TV show.
You could never think of high-end women’s shoes without the name Manolo Blahnik. His artisan works and meticulous craftsmanship are just a few of his selling points to the seemingly endless lines of wealthy fans and clients and put him at the limelight of the shoe fashion world.
Blahnik was born Manuel Blahnik Rodriguez in Santa Cruz de la Palma, (Canary Islands) Spain, on November 27, 1942. He is of Czech and Spanish ancestry. As a boy he probably learned the art of shoe making from his mother, who used to make Catalan espadrilles. She herself learned this craft from the local shoemakers in the Canary Islands. From this he also developed a love of shoes and shoe designing. He also inherited his mother’s penchant for the luxurious and the unorthodox, and at the same time he himself favored elegant and ultra-feminine styles – these very characteristics he would later apply in his future designs.
He studied in Geneva, Switzerland, intending to become a diplomat as his parents hoped for. However, he had a change of heart and left Geneva to study art in Paris for a while. Then he moved to London in the late 1960s and worked at a fashion boutique there named Zapata on the city’s Old Church Street.
Blahnik also became a writer for Vogue Italia. In 1970 he went to the US and visited New York, where by chance, he met Diana Vreeland, editor-in-chief of the American Vogue at that time. After showing his portfolios and set designs to her, Vreeland told him that he should, “go make shoes.” He learned a bit more about the technicalities of, as well as the art of shoe making. By 1971 he was already creating his own shoes.
He began to make men’s shoes and found the designing styles too limiting for his comparatively adventurous taste and imagination. Blahnik’s break came in 1972 when English designer Ossie Clark invited him to create shoes for his upcoming fashion show. It was the early 1970s where platforms and clunky heels ruled the mainstream foot fashion, but Blahnik, who is not keen on wedges, decided to turn his focus to making stilettos. The result? His shoes stood out from the rest, and stilettos have become Blahnik’s permanent design ever since.
In 1973 Blahnik bought Zapata from its original owner and opened his first boutique there. His store was frequented by many celebrities, including model and Mick Jagger’s then-wife Bianca Jagger. Soon his name reached other fashion circles around the world, and his shoes soon graced the runways and catwalks in the world. It wouldn’t hurt either that his high heels found high-profile fans in Madonna, Victoria Beckham, Rihanna, Kristen Stewart (as her Twilight character Bella Swan who wore a pair of Blahniks in her wedding) and Sarah Jessica Parker, who was the Blahnik-loving main character Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and The City. Hollywood’s A-listers continue to love his shoes.
While Blahnik’s empire has extended to many parts of the globe from New York to Seoul, and his pricey heels are seen on upscale stores like Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, his headquarters remain on Old Church Street in London.
Like many great designers, Blahnik also demands perfection in quality and uniqueness of style in his every shoe creation, especially in the world of high couture. That’s why you could never think of high-end women’s shoes without the name Manolo Blahnik. His name is synonymous with quality, originality and elegance.