fashion designer (1942)
Manuel "Manolo" Blahnik Rodríguez was born in Santa Cruz de la Palma in the Canary Islands (Spain) in 1942, to a Spanish mother and Czech father. He is a famous fashion designer famous for creating women's shoes.
Manolo Blahnik grew up in the lush setting of a banana plantation owned by his mother's family. Remember to have early fixation with your feet, especially those of the lizards that have invaded the gardens of your home. In a solitaire game, Manolo would have molded the aluminum wrappers of his chocolate candies into shoes for unsuspecting reptiles. Many years later, at the end of a conversation with Diana Vreeland he would have thought of dedicating himself again to the creation of shoes.
His name has become synonymous with women's luxury shoes, yet Manolo Blahnik is a shoe designer by accident. He was studying art and scenography in Paris when, in 1969, his dear friend Paloma Picasso introduced him to the then director of the Met Costume Institute, Diana Vreeland.
After seeing Manolo's sketches for "A Midsummer Night's Dream", Vreeland concentrated on Hippolyta's high-heeled sandal decorated with ivy and cherries and said: "Young man, stick to the ends and make your shoes ! "
Manolo studied informally, visiting the best Italian shoe factories and talking with the artisans about their art.
Established in London in 1969, just a year later, he opened his first boutique on Old Church Street, in Chelsea. In 1971 he developed his inaugural shoe for a fashion show by the most important British designer of the time, Ossie Clark.
The magnetic personality of Manolo Blahnik has created an atmosphere of beauty and charm for clients and friends such as Bianca Jagger, Rupert Everett, David Hockney and Anna Wintour.
Manolo has always been sophisticated, with a personal style belonging to another era, or perhaps existing outside of time. He designed elegant stilettos and convinced his female clients to adopt his most refined sense of femininity.
In 1983 Manolo Blahnik expands his influence in New York. A shop opens on 54th Street. With the help of her friend Anna Wintour, she quickly became the reference shoe designer for the catwalks, creating collections for, among others, Izaac Mizrahi, Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein.
In 1990, he won the CFDA award and the British Fashion Council Accessory Designer of the Year. Her regal designs were featured on the big screen in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, which won the Oscar for Best Costumes in 2007. The same year, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed Manolo with the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his contribution to British fashion.
Over his long career, over several decades, Manolo Blahnik has always remained very creative and original. In 2015 he published Fleeting Gestures and Obsessions, a transcript of conversations with other icons such as Pedro Almodóvar and Sofia Coppola about his precious influences in art, design and literature, along with selected photos from his archive of over 30,000 drawings.
In 2017, a documentary of his life, MANOLO: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards, directed by Michael Roberts, was released in theaters around the world and on Netflix. A two-year traveling exhibition of his work titled The Art of Shoes comes to its final stop at the BATA Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada.
Manolo Blahnik has always worked at the same pace. If he doesn't draw in his office in Marylebone or his home in Bath, he can be found in factories in Italy, developing samples by hand, dressed in his signature white lab coat with a silk handkerchief tucked into his jacket pocket, lively and meticulous in everything he does and in everything he is.