Born in the Canary Islands in 1942 to a Spanish mother and a Czech Father, Manuel ‘Manolo’ Blahnik Rodríguez grew up on a banana plantation on the island of Santa Cruz de la Palma. Manolo and his family often travelled to Paris and Madrid where his parents ordered clothing from his mother’s favourite couturiers such as Christóbal Balenciaga. His mother learnt how to make Catalan espadrilles from local Canary Island cobblers and as a boy, Blahnik loved to watch his mother as she worked.
His mother had a fondness for brocade and satin fabrics and had her footwear made by the island’s leading shoemaker. Blahnik has recounted how, as a boy, he found a trunk filled with shoes by the famous Russian Yanturni all made from silks, antique lace and brocades trimmed with delicate buckles. All were light, elegant and feminine; attributes Blahnik later brought to his own designs.
Manolo Blahnik Shoes are designed with a combination of “occasional avant garde looks for the affluent few and good solid looks that will wear forever”. His creations are inspired by his love of Visconti and Cocteau films, by the paintings of El Greco, Zurburán and Velázquez and the work of master couturiers such as Christóbal Balenciaga and Coco Chanel and the much admired shoe designer Roger Vivier.
“I know how to cut and cut away here (the side of the shoe) and still make it so that it stays on the foot. And the secret of toe cleavage, a very important part of the sexuality of the shoe. You must only show the first two cracks. And the heel. Even if it’s twelve centimetres high it still has to feel secure – and that’s a question of balance. That’s why I carve each heel personally myself – on the machine and then by hand with a chisel and file, until it’s exactly right.” –MANOLO BLAHNIK
Like any great couturier, Manolo Blahnik’s shoe styles are kept to small exclusive production numbers and his style signature is easily recognisable. It is known in fashion circles that when Blahnik dies there will be no more Manolos. There is no protégé or heir and no desire from the great designer to have the label continue without him.