Manolo Blahník in Prague in 2017
Manuel Blahnik Rodríguez
27 November 1942
Santa Cruz de La Palma, Spain
Blahnik was born and raised in Santa Cruz de la Palma, in the Canary Islands (Spain). His father was Czech. His Spanish mother's family owned a banana plantation in the island city of Santa Cruz de la Palma. He was homeschooled when he was a child. After he grew up, he attended a Swiss boarding school. Later, his parents wanted him to be a diplomat, and enrolled him at the University of Geneva majoring in Politics and Law. However, Blahnik changed his majors to Literature and Architecture. In 1965, he got his degree and moved to Paris to study art at the École des Beaux-Arts and Stage Set Design at the Louvre Art School, all while working at a vintage clothing shop. In 1968, he moved to London to work as a buyer at fashion boutique "Zapata" and wrote for L’Uomo Vogue, an Italian men's version of Vogue.
In 1970, Blahnik had a chance to meet Diana Vreeland, the editor-in-chief of U.S Vogue, while he was travelling in New York. He then presented his portfolio of fashions and set designs to Vreeland, at which point she looked him straight in the eye and said, "Young man, make things, make accessories, make shoes." She admired his shoe sketches and advised him to concentrate on designing footwear. Blahnik followed her advice and worked on designing shoes.
In 1972, Ossie Clark invited him to create shoes for his runway show. Also, he designed shoes for other London fashion designers, such as Jean Muir and Zandra Rhodes. With a loan of £2,000, Blahnik bought Zapata from its owner and opened his own boutique. In 1974, Blahnik became the second man ever to be featured on the cover of U.K. Vogue (after Helmut Berger). In 1977, he sold his shoes in America, through Bloomingdales, and opened his boutique in the U.S. Since then, he has become a very famous shoe designer, and a symbol of pure classic style for the 21st century.
Blahnik's boutiques are located in London, New York, Geneva, Madrid, Barcelona, Moscow, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Singapore and Tokyo. Bloomingdales (for which he created his first American collection), Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue carry his line in the United States and newly opened in Dubai Mall. The company has signed a long-term deal with the shoewear retailer Kurt Geiger to operate Manolo Blahnik boutiques.
In 2000, Blahnik, together with Neiman Marcus, launched the first commercial virtual reality online show room featuring 3d models of his shoes. The entire collection was sold out online within 3 weeks.
Blahnik was elevated to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2007 Blahnik was appointed as an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his service to the British fashion industry.
Blahnik currently resides in Bath, United Kingdom and was awarded an honorary degree from Bath Spa University in July 2012.
One of Blahnik's greatest inspirations was his mother. She studied fashion magazines and interpreted the latest fashion trend on her clothing. Blahnik and his family often travelled to Paris and Madrid ordering clothes. His mother was always dissatisfied with the shoes from their hometown, so she made her own. She learned the rudiments of her craft from a local Canary Island cobbler and as a boy, Blahnik loved to watch his mother when she made beautiful shoes. He has inherited his mother's love for brocade and satin fabrics and recounted how, as a boy, he found a trunk filled with shoes by the famous Russian Yanturni all made from silks, antique lace and brocades trimmed with delicate buckles. All were light, elegant and feminine; attributes Blahnik later brought to his own designs.
When Blahnik was attending university, he lived with his aunt and uncle. Meanwhile, his aunt deeply influenced his fashion sense. He refined his tastes and learned to appreciate the beauty of luxury, art, and happiness. Blahnik recalled that according to his aunt, "happiness was having the single most elegant handbag ever made, in every color available."
Blahnik never studied shoe making formally. He learned the skills by visiting shoe factories and talking to pattern cutters, technicians and machine operators. At first, he designed men's footwear, but he immediately found that men's shoes design limited his imagination and lacked the element of fashion. When mainstream shoe style was still dominated by clunky platforms in the 1970s, he revived the sleek stiletto heel, which has since become a classic. Also, he dislikes wedges and believes in the power of heels and the sex appeal they convey.
Blahnik has worked wholeheartedly on his shoes. He not only draws the design of a pair of shoes, but also hand-crafts the shoes himself. He carves the wood last, which he then hand sculpts the shoe onto. When the time comes for mass production, he oversees every step to ensure each shoe is an exact copy of his original creation. He always keeps every one of his designs: 25,000 shoes are arranged in date order in paneled cupboards that fill up two adjoining houses in a Georgian terrace in Bath.
Like any great couturier, Manolo Blahnik's shoe styles are kept to small exclusive production numbers and his style signature is easily recognizable.
The Classic Manolo Blahnik's Stiletto Heels:
- BB Pump
- Hangisi Pump
- Swan Pump
- Campari Pump
- Chaos Sandal
Awards and honours
- 1987: Special Award
- 1990: Accessory Designer of the Year
- 1997: The Stiletto
- 1999: Accessory Designer of the Year
- 1990: Accessory Designer of the Year
- 1998: Shoe Designer of the Year from Footwear News
- 2003: Shoe Designer of the Year from Footwear News
- 2007 Honorary CBE from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
- 2011 The SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) Andre Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award.
- 2011 A Lifetime Achievement Award from Footwear News.
- 2017 Ranked #25 best dressed man alive by Esquire magazine
- 2018: Luxury Legend Award by Walpole British Luxury Awards on November 19
In popular culture
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- In part one of the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn film, Bella Swan wears Manolo Blahnik's "Swan" pump for her wedding.
- The staff of the TV show Angel asked Manolo Blahnik for permission to use their company name on screen. The company then insisted that characters wear the products even if the shoes were not shown on camera.
- In the popular long-running TV show Sex and the City Blahniks are a particular favorite of the character Carrie Bradshaw and as a result are mentioned frequently. A notable episode illustrating the brand's prestige is "What Goes Around Comes Around" from Season 3 in which Carrie is mugged. During her assault the assailant demands she surrender her shoes, demanding them by the brand's name.
- They are referenced multiple times in Duck Dodgers whenever any sort of footwear defect occurs, typically with the grumbled phrase "Cheap counterfeit Manolo Blahniks".
- At the end of the fourth verse of the RuPaul dance music song "Click Clack (Make Dat Money)", from his album Glamazon, the drag queen "Supermodel of the World" sings "My Manolo Blahniks gonna party tonight".
- During the description of the third girl in "Weird Al" Yankovic's original song "Close, But No Cigar" he references the brand by noting: "She wore a ribbon on her left Manolo".
- On 28 September 2013, Saturday Night Live Season 39, Episode 1, included a sketch featuring Tina Fey that poked fun at the company.
- In the third part of the E. L. James Fifty Shades trilogy, a mirrored pair of Manolos are the accent to a clubbing night in Aspen, Colorado.
- Manolos are mentioned many times in Gossip Girl. Georgina Sparks mentions in the beginning of Season 3 that she owns a pair and that Blair can borrow them.
- American singer Jay-Z mentioned Manolo in his song "Bonnie and Clyde" ft. Beyoncé.
- German rapper Cro mentioned Manolo Blahnik along with Gucci and Lacoste in his song "Einmal um die Welt".
- In the second episode of the fourth season of ABC's Revenge, Emily Thorne is advised to "look beneath [her] Manolos" when she is searching for somebody who, according to a tracking device, is "right on top of her".
- Mentioned in the opening song "Gulabi Aankhein" of the Bollywood movie Student of the Year along with Jimmy Choo, Stella McCartney, Gucci and others.
- In chapter 23 of the international bestselling novel The Rosie Project, Rosie says “any time you need entertaining, I could use a pair of Manolo Blahniks.” and the main protagonist, from the word “pair”, guesses that she is referring to shoes.
- Mentioned in the song "You Are What You Wear" from American Psycho: The Musical.
- The 2003 song "Shake ya Tailfeather" by rappers Nelly Ft. Murphy Lee and P. Diddy contains the lyric "Manolos Ma-no-no's I can't tell".
- In a Japanese high-school teen drama, "Hana Yori Dango", the female main character was given a pair of Manolo Blahnik during a party. The scene mentioned a saying, "A girl should wear nice shoes. Because the shoes will take her to a calm and beautiful place."
- Spanish pronunciation: [manˈwel maˈnolo ˈβlanik roˈðɾiɣeθ], Czech: [ˈblaɦɲiːk]
- Manolo Blahnik Design Museum Retrieved 7 August 2008
- Morton, Camilla (2011). Manolo Blahnik and the Tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker, p. 101. Harper Entertainment. ISBN 0061917303.
- "Vogue's Collectible Covers". Retrieved 13 April 2017.
- "5 Favorites: Iconic Vintage Magazine Covers - Michelle Phan". 10 October 2014.
- Ruth Faulkner (14 May 2012). "Kurt Geiger signs long-term deal with Manolo Blahnik". Drapers Online.
- Caroline Ferry (14 May 2012). "Manolo Blahnik Collaborates With Kurt Geiger!". Grazia Daily.
- Slatalla, Michelle (2000-09-07). "ONLINE SHOPPER; Temptation, in Spike Heels And a Devilish Price Tag". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
- CNN.(17 March 2012). CNN. Talk Asia: Interview with Manolo Blahnik Retrieved from http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1203/17/ta.01.html
- Stylesequel. Manolo Blahnik Biography Retrieved from http://www.stylesequel.com/designers/manolo-blahnik/biography
- Morton, Camilla (2011). Manolo Blahnik and the Tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker, p. 23. Harper Entertainment. ISBN 0061917303.
-  Jo Craven. "Manolo Blahnik". Vogue UK, 20 April 2008.
- Slater, Lydia.(12 September 2010). Daily Mail UK. "'A mistake made my career': The rise and rise of Manolo Blahnik" Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1309832/Manolo-Blahnik-The-legendary-designer-recalls-lifelong-love-affair-womens-shoes.html
- CFDA Past Winners Archived 5 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Past Winners Retrieved 31 January 2011
- Manolo Blahnik Biography Archived 14 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 31 January 2011
- Morton, Camilla (2011). Manolo Blahnik and the Tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker, p. 103-104. Harper Entertainment. ISBN 0061917303.
- The 40 Best-Dressed Men In The World, Esquire
- "Manolo Blahnik Receives Much Deserved Recognition from Walpole - Luxury Legend Award". Humble & Rich Boutique. 2018-12-01. Retrieved 2018-12-08.
- "Manolo Blahnik from Saturday Night Live on NBC.com".
- Duncan Sheik (9 May 2016). "American Psycho - London Cast Recording: You Are What You Wear" – via YouTube.