Son of a Czech father and Spanish mother, Manolo Blahnik was born on 28th November 1942 in Santa Cruz de la Palma and grew up in the Canary Islands. Manolo frequently travelled to Madrid and Paris with his parents and at these spectacular locations, his mother ordered clothes for herself from her favorite designers, including Christóbal Balenciaga. His mother got trained to make espadrilles and as a boy, Manolo loved to observe her mother practice this skill. Less did he know at the time that he has the same genes and would later become a well known shoe-maker. His mother possessed a trunk filled with branded silk/satin sandals, embellished with lace and buckles. For Manolo this became a treasure hunt, he used to gaze at the shoes and eventually incorporated attributes like femininity and elegance in his designs as well.
He graduated in 1965 from the University of Geneva and later went to Paris to learn about art, literature and architecture. Although his parents wanted him to become a diplomat, Manolo’s interest lied in creative and artistic subjects. Three years later, he moved to work in Zapata, a boutique in London; and wrote material for Vogue Italia and worked for a short while at Sunday Times, and made good contact with Eric Boman (photographer) and Paloma Picasso. After showing his portfolio to Diana Vreeland, and he was asked by her to design footwear since that she thought was his best talent. In 1972, Maolo Blahnik was invited by Ossie Clark to design shoe-wear for a runway show. The designer took a loan to buy Zapata and open his own fashion store.
Manolo’s voyage of shoe-designing started and he began learning about the relevant skills by visiting factories, talking to machine operators, technicians and pattern cutters. By 1971, the young energetic Manolo was creating his own shoes and had began selling foot-wear at Zapata before taking it over. The 1970s saw the development of miniskirt designs and the focus diverted to legs and how to make them look more beautiful. The mainstream style were platform shoes and boots, however Manolo turned his attention towards stiletto heels. At the time, revolutionary interpretations regarding footwear were spiraling across the fashion industry and with the advancement in technology, designers extensively experimented with different materials and equipment. Hence, London became a breeding place for creative people – one of them being Manolo Blahnik.
Manolo’s stores can be found in Athens, Dublin, Istanbul, Madrid, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Stockholm, Seoul, Las Vegas, Singapore and New York. In the United States, Nordstrom, Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Neiman Marcus carry his collection. Apart from this his line is available in Dubai Mall as well.
For his outstanding performance in making amazing shoes, Manolo received several awards and his position was not only elevated to the Hall of Fame of International Best Dressed List but he was honored with the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE).
His shoe designs have become the symbol of 21st century since he employs a classical, opulent and unconventional style. Manolo’s creations are produced from his inspirations from his love for Cocteau and Visconti films or the paintings of Velázquez, Zurburán and El Greco. His work also reflects stimulation from couturiers like Roger Vivier and Coco Chanel.
Over the years, Manolo has garnered the attention of royalties and famous celebrities. His inventions and designs have been quoted as being better and more satisfying than sex by Madonna.