Manolo Blahnik: The World's Master Shoemaker

British Fashion Council

The world's master shoe maker with a unique vision and endless creativity.

MANOLO BLAHNIK, CBE
With a career spanning more than 40 years, Manolo Blahnik has become one of the world’s most influential footwear designers. His shoes have spellbound an international set of adoring and loyal devotees. Manolo Blahnik is first and foremost a craftsman. The exquisitely shaped lasts and heels he creates for his shoes are still perfected with his very own hands. And, the lines and silhouette of his distinctive designs are instantly recognisable as unique, inimitable exercises in precision and balance. Manolo Blahnik's shoes are creations of exquisite workmanship and luxury.  “Shoes,” he says, “help transform a woman.”
STARTING OUT

AN EARLY LOVE OF FASHION

Manolo Blahnik was born in the Canary Islands to a Spanish mother and a Czech father. When he was young, Manolo Blahnik was always interested in fashion and avidly read is mother's Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.

This iconic image of Suzy Parker, photographed by the legendary Richard Avedon, was truly inspiring for Manolo Blahnik growing-up and remains an iconic fashion image today.

Although Manolo Blahnik studied languages and art in Geneva before moving to Paris in 1965. He would always hold a deep love for fashion.

FROM SET DESIGN TO SHOES

When Manolo Blahnik moved to Paris in 1965 he began work as a set designer. However, his career in the theatre world would be short lived - which would be fashion's gain.

On a visit to New York in 1970, he showed his theatre designs to Diana Vreeland, then editor-in-chief of American Vogue, who honed in on his shoes and encouraged him to concentrate on them.

Manolo Blahnik followed Vreeland's advice enthusiastically and realised he had found his calling. To learn the art of shoe making he visited many factories where he talked to machine operators, pattern cutters and technicians.

This hands-on approach to learning the art of shoe making meant that Manolo Blahnik's first shoes were not only incredibly creative they were also technically accomplished.

TAKING OFF

By 1971, Manolo Blahnik was in London making shoes. The first shoe that Manolo Blahnik designed and made himself was called the 'Brick' and it was created for the Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto.

A year later in 1972, Ossie Clark, then the most famous designer in Britain, used his shoes in a catwalk show and from there Manolo Blahnik's career blossomed.

In 1973, Manolo Blahnik opened his first shop in London’s Chelsea and he has remained living and working in the UK ever since. Despite his Spanish and Czech heritage Manolo Blahnik considers his brand British and the company's headquarter remains in London to this day.

MANOLO BLAHNIK TODAY

A NEW STORE & MANY AWARDS

Manolo Blahnik continues to be an incredibly prolific shoe designer and he shows no signs of slowing down. In September 2013 he staged a presentation at London Fashion Week for the first time, and it was followed by another presentation in 2014 in New York.

Manolo Blahnik's shoes are as in-demand as ever and in 2016 he opened a second store in London, 44 years after his first store opened in Chelsea. This new women’s and men’s boutique is located in the quintessentially British Burlington Arcade.

Manolo Blahnik's work has been recognised by both the fashion industry and the British and Spanish governments. In November 2007, Manolo Blahnik was awarded an Honorary Commander of the British Empire (CBE) and in 2012 he was awarded both the British Fashion Council's Outstanding Achievement Award and the very prestigious Premio Nacional de Diseño de Moda in Spain.

MANOLO BLAHNIK'S MOST FAMOUS SHOE

When Kate Moss was photograhed by the paparazzi on a night out wearing a pair of Manolo’ Blahinks Mary Janes an overnight sensation was born. The Mary Janes have became one of Manolo Blahnik's most icnonic styles and like Kate Moss herself have stood the test of time well.

WORK TODAY

The original sketch for the 2017 Spring / Summer 'Mandinga' style. This shoe highlights one of Manolo Blahnik's reoccurring themes: botanical.

WORK TODAY

The finished shoe itself for the 2017 Spring / Summer 'Mandinga' style.

INSPIRATION

WORKS OF ART

Every Manolo Blahnik shoe is a unique work of art, beautifully created by hand by the designer himself. However, each of these exquisite shoes will begin life as a sketch - which as you will see are works of art themselves.

The rich imagination and staggering breadth of vision of Manolo Blahnik's 40 year career are captured across these sketches. Each creation is truly unique and these shoes are only linked by the unfailing genius of their creator: Manolo Blahnik himself.

FAVOURITE CREATION

This original sketch shows the Tortura shoe dating from 2000.

Although it is impossible for Manolo Blahnik to select one shoe from his career that is truly a 'favourite' this shoe embodies the approach and spirit of his vision of design.

The Tortura shows off the intricacy of Manolo Blahnik's construction and the beautiful, yet playful, style that is all his own.

Although it may be difficult to define what makes a Manolo Blahnik shoe special, for its creator the Tortura embodies this X-Factor best.

In 2013, Manolo Blahnik created a series of illustrations for the British Fashion Council which were used as the principle design for that year's London Fashion Week.

CRAFTSMANSHIP

MANOLO BLAHNIK AT WORK

Manolo Blahnik is first and foremost a craftsman. The exquisitely shaped lasts and heels he creates for his shoes are still perfected with his very own hands.

Manolo Blahnik taught himself the skills of shoe making by visiting factories where he talked to machine operators, pattern cutters and technicians. This hands-on approach means that Manolo Blahnik is not only a designer but also a skilled artisan.

"Better than sex!"
The musician Madonna describing Manolo Blahnik's shoes.

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the British Fashion Council in collaboration with Manolo Blahnik. The British Fashion Council would like to thank the team at Manolo Blahnik for their help in making this online exhibit possible, especially Manolo Blahnik himself.

The British Fashion Council would also like to credit specifically Michael Comte and Italian Vogue; the estate of Richard Avendon and Harper's Bazaar; Juergen Teller and British Vogue for granting permission for the use of the featured imagery as credited throughout this exhibit.

All models and photographers have been credited where known.

All other rights belong to Manolo Blahnik unless stated otherswise.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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