Manolo Blahnik is the *It* celebrity shoe designer of the new millennium. Originally trained as an artist – with no shoe designing experience – Blahnik had a chance encounter with Diana Vreeland, then editor of U.S. Vogue, in 1971. She persuaded him to go into shoe design based solely on his imaginative sketches.
He took Vreeland’s advice and gradually learned the art of shoemaking. In the early 1990s, his name became known to the millions of viewers of the BBC hit comedy Absolutely Fabulous.
Only a few years later, in the late ’90s, thanks to Sarah Jessica Parker’s shoe-obsessed character Carrie Bradshaw on HBO’s Sex and the City, Blahnik became a household name. Madonna says his shoes are better than sex, and on the day she was due to give birth Sarah Jessica Parker turned out in a black taffeta YSL dress, and a beautiful pair of black, strappy Manolo stilettos. “Archive them ladies,” she told the audience. “Most marriages don’t last that long, but with Blahnik, you can be monogamous.”
Manolo Blahnik was born in 1942 in Santa Cruz de la Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands to wealthy parents – his Czech father’s family owned a Prague pharmaceutical firm and his Spanish mother’s family ran a banana plantation. When Blahnik was a child he would dress his pet dogs and monkeys in early versions of his exclusive footwear. A move to London in 1970 enabled him to get his foot in the door of the fashion world after he became a denim buyer for a London boutique. Today he sells 60,000-70,000 pairs of his creations annually.
The designer doesn’t advertise or show his collections and admits that he tries to “never get into the trap of trends,” preferring instead to stick to the aesthetic that made him famous. “My shoes don’t change drastically from season to season,” he says. “I think it’s awfully rude to ask someone to pay a lot of money for a pair of shoes, and then have them be ‘out’ the next season. People are not stupid. They know what they want, and they should get it.”