Manolo Blahnik shoes are synonymous with high-heeled, beautifully-crafted shoes as worn by the girls in Sex and the City, Madonna and Paloma Picasso amongst others. Blahnik shoes are noted for their flattering fit and individual charm. One pair has a strap resembling a snake winding around the wearer’s ankle, another pair is rather whimsically shaped like a glove. Manolo often finds his inspiration in other eras, such as the Regency or rococo periods, and uses details found there in his thoroughly modern shoes.
The Blahnik shoe factory in Parabiago, Italy, turns out fewer than 100 pairs of shoes in any one day. This is because each shoe is subject to about 50 different processes during production and so the whole procedure is very laboured and slow. The limited numbers mean that there is a high demand for Manolo Blahnik shoes, and the most faithful customers order them without even seeing them, such is their trust in the designer. Every design produced is overseen by Manolo, who still carves heels himself.
Blahnik was born in 1942 in the Canary Islands. His mother was Spanish and his father Czech. He studied literature and architecture at the University of Geneva and wanted to be a set designer. In the 1970s he had his first dip into shoe design, making some men’s shoes, but it was not until Diana Vreeland encouraged him to try women’s shoes that Blahnik really got going. Blahnik’s passion for shoes may have begun when he saw Marlene Dietrich teetering across the desert in high heels in the film Morocco. Books and films inspire his designs, and he says that he tries to create “fleeting moments” rather than shoes. His first boutique opened in London in 1973 and he gradually started making more and more refined styles.
Nowadays Manolo Blahnik shoes appear in top catwalk collections and in glossy fashion magazines, as well as on the heels of the rich and famous. He is an iconic shoe designer and his opinion about shoes is much respected across the globe, just as his wonderful shoes are sought after by any self-respecting, well-heeled girl.