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Manolo Blahnik - the man, his shoes and his life

Manolo Blahnik

manolo blahnik and sarah jessica parkerManolo Blahnik, born in 1942, is the man behind Manolo Blahnik shoes. He works on his own and has personally designed every shoe that bears his name, and he supervises their production. He has no formal training in shoe design. His shoes characteristically have very high heels - sometimes over five inches - and are frequently decorated with ribbons and crystals. His shoes gained a lot of publicity from the TV show "Sex in the City", where the Carrie Bradshaw character was an ardent fan of expensive designer shoes (see right, Manolo Blahnik pictured with Sarah Jessica Parker, the actress who brought Carrie Bradshaw to life). Shoes designed by Manolo Blahnik are affectionately known as "Manolo's" and cost anything from £300 upwards.

Blahnik started first started designing shoes in London, for Zapata, a shoe boutique in Chelsea. In 1973 Blahnik took out a loan to buy the shop for himself. Blahniks first shoes, although beautiful, were technically flawed. He designed a collection of shoes for a fashion show by Ossie Clark in 1972, but the heels were not designed sufficiently well to offer structural support to the shoe, causing the heels to wobble. Blahnik overcame this problem by teaming up with a good shoe manufacturer, which is how he learnt to make shoes that were both visually beautiful and technically perfect.

In the late 1970's, Blahnik concentrated on trying to establish his brand in the US, and in 1978 he designed an exclusive collection of shoes for Bloomingdales. This was a great success and he was able to open his own store in New York the following year. The shoes started to become more popular in the US in the 1980's, and in 1991 he received the ultimate accolade - Marge Simpson wore a pair of Manolo Blahnik slippers in The Simpsons. This same year, Blahnik opened a store in Hong Kong.

Blahnik has now won many design awards for his handiwork, including winning an award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in the US and La Aguja de Oro (The Needle of Gold) in Spain. In 2002 he was awarded La Medalla de Oro en Merito en las Bellas Artes (The Gold Medal of Merit for Beautiful Art) by King Juan Carlos I of Spain.