There are thousands of names in the world of fashion, but only a couple of them stand out. One such brand is Manolo Blahnik, which is based in Spain. The brand is known for its signature line of high-end women’s footwear. Manolo Blahnik’s work has been featured in several movies as well, such as Twilight, which depicts the popularity and highlights the quality of the products it creates. Let us take a closer look at the brand and see how it was able to stand out from the rest.
Manual Blahnik, aka Manuel Blahnik, was the eldest amongst his siblings and was born in an affluent family. His father was a Czech whose family owned a pharmaceutical company in Prague while his Spanish mother’s family owned a banana plantation in the Island city of Santa Cruz de la Palma.
This is the same place where Blahnik and his sister were raised in addition to being homeschooled. However, his father left Prague in the 1930s to avoid rising fascism, whereas his grandparents disappeared during the 50s after the communists took charge. After he had grown up, he attended a Swiss boarding school. Then, his parents wanted him to become a diplomat and, therefore, enrolled him at the University of Geneva, majoring in politics and law.
However, politics and law did not provoke Blahnik’s interest, so he opted for Literature and Architecture. Then in 1965, Blahnik got done with his studies, received his degree, and moved to Paris in order to study at the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts and Stage Set Design at the Louvre Art School while he was working at a vintage clothing shop. Then in 1969, he moved to London, where he worked as a buyer at a Fashion boutique by the name of ‘Feathers’ and wrote for an Italian men’s magazine L’Uomo Vogue.
Rise of Manolo Blahnik
In 1969, Blahnik had the chance to meet Diana Vreeland, who was the editor-in-chief of U.S. Vogue at the time, while he was traveling to New York. Blahnik submitted his portfolio of set designs and fashions to Vreeland upon which she replied, “Young man, make things, make accessories, make shoes.” Vreeland not only admired Blahnik’s shoe sketches but also advised him to concentrate more on footwear designing. Blahnik took her advice and began designing shoes.
In 1971, Blahnik was invited by Ossie Clark to create shoes for his runway show. He also designed shoes for other London based fashion designers such as Zandra Rhodes and Jean Muir. From 1971, Manolo Blahnik was selling shoes for Zapata. With the help of a 2000 pound load, Blahnik bought the Zapata show company from its owner and opened his own boutique.
The year 1974 was Blahnik’s year. It was the year when he became the second man ever to be a feature on the cover of the U.K. Vogue.
Then in 1977, Blahnik created and came up with his first American collection. These items were sold through Bloomingdales in 1978. Furthermore, in 1979 Blahnik opened his first boutique in the U.S. in 1979.
As of today, Manolo Blahnik’s flagship store remains open in Old Church Street in the Chelsea district of London. In addition to that, Blahnik’s boutiques are located in Geneva, New York, London, Moscow, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Tokyo, and Kuala Lampur, etc. Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, and Saks Fifth Avenue carry his line in the United States as well as the newly opened boutique in Dubai Mall.
Moreover, the brand has signed a long term deal with prominent shoewear retailer Kurt Geiger to operate boutiques of Manolo Blahnik. In 2000, Manolo Blahnik, with Neiman Marcus, launched the first virtual reality showroom featuring 3D models of his shoes. It took only three weeks for the entire collection to be sold out.
Manolo Blahnik’s Inspiration
Manolo Blahnik was primarily inspired by his mother. She was well into fashion, studied fashion magazines, and tried to implement the latest fashion trends. It was often that Blahnik and his family used to travel to Madrid and Paris ordering clothes. Furthermore, his mother was always dissatisfied with the shoes that were made in their hometown.
Therefore she made them on her own. Blahnik’s mother learned the craft of making shoes from a local Canary Island cobbler, and as a child, Blahnik loved to watch her mother when she used to make beautiful shoes. It goes without any doubt that Blahnik inherited the love for shoes from his mother for satin and brocade fabrics.
He once shared his childhood experience where he had found a trunk filled with shoes by the famous Russian, Pierre Yantorny, which were all made from antique lace, silk, and brocades and trimmed with delicate buckles. All were elegant, tight, and feminine attributes that Blahnik later implemented in his designs.
While Blahnik was attending the university, he lived with his uncle and aunt. His aunt helped him refine his taste in fashion and luxury. It was her due to which Blahnik became appreciative of beauty, happiness, art, and luxury.
Blahnik never learned the art of making shoes formally. He never undertook any courses of some sort or training particularly related to making shoes. Instead, he developed skills by visiting different shoe factories and talking to technicians, pattern cutters, and machine operators. At first, he began with designing men’s footwear, but then he realized that designing men’s footwear was limiting his imagination and lacked the element.
Therefore, he shifted his focus towards women’s shoes. When clunky platforms dominated the mainstream shoe style in the 70s, Blahnik gave a sleeker look to the stiletto heel, which has since become a classic.
Even today, Blahnik is obsessed with making the best shoes out there. He not only draws the design of shoes but also handcrafts them regularly. When it comes to mass production of shoes, Blahnik oversees each step and makes sure that the pair in production is the exact copy of his original idea/creation. Lastly, he always keeps a pair of his designs, which have accumulated to around 25,000 in his homes, arranged according to the date.
Manolo Blahnik in Popular Culture
Manolo Blahnik has been able to influence popular culture and has gained the attention of Hollywood as well. In part one of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Bella Swan is seen wearing a Manolo Blahnik’s “Swan” pump. In addition to that, costume designer Milena Canonero asked Blahnik to contribute the shoes to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoniette. The film was a massive success as it went on to achieve the Academy Award for best costumes.
Manolo Blahnik is probably the only name you would want to consider when it comes to shoes. If Gucci and Louis Vuitton do it pretty well, Manolo Blahnik does it better. Furthermore, Blahnik’s passion for shoes and the level to which he ascends in order to ensure premium quality is hard to compete. His contribution to the fashion industry is noteworthy and has surely made its place in history.