Manolo Blahnik

Tonie Ong

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Articles on Manolo Blahnik

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Often times, a designer gets introduced to the fashion consumer audience through different media. Throughout the 20th century, a film was one of the best places a designer can get his/her name out there. Such are the cases of Hubert de Givenchy, Christian Dior, and Elsa Schiaparelli. Their work on film and name on the credits introduced them to a whole new audience, outside of their usual rich and elite clientele. But from the latter half of the century, television started becoming the harbinger of new designers. TV shows became as glamorous and fashionable as films, and the brands worn in them eventually became blockbuster brands. One, in particular, is Manolo Blahnik.

Before the 1990’s, Manolo Blahnik was fairly known among an exclusive group of clients. But once the hit TV comedy “Sex and the City” premiered in 1998, awareness for the brand and the designer expanded tenfold. Suddenly, the label was the hottest show label in the entire world, with women doing anything to have one. When the iconic characters Carrie Bradshaw, Samantha Jones, Miranda Hobbes, and Charlotte York slipped on their Manolo Blahnik’s on screen, they inspired a legion of women to run to their nearest retailers to buy themselves a pair.

Manolo Blahnik’s ascent to fashion fame

The iconic show designer was born Manuel “Manolo” Blahnik Rodríguez on November 27, 1942, in the Canary Islands of Spain. Upon the insistence of his parents, he initially took up politics and law at the University of Geneva, but eventually shifted to art and literature. In 1965, he moved to Paris to study design at the famous École des Beaux-Arts. Afterwards, he left Paris to go to Italy and work as a buyer for fashion boutique Zapata and as a contributing writer for L’Uomo Vogue, the men’s version of Italian Vogue. It was the great Diana Vreeland, then editor-in-chief of American Vogue, who convinced Blahnik to open a shoe and accessories line when they met back in 1970. After Blahnik showed her a few fashion sketches, Vreeland highlighted that the shoes were the best part of them.

Fashion designer Ossie Clark eventually commissioned Blahnik to create shoes for his runway show in 1972. Soon after, other designers such as Zandra Rhodes and Jean Muir asked him to do shoes for their own lines as well. In 1973, Blahnik bought out Zapata and replaced it with his own eponymous boutique—his first store. He soon became a big name in the fashion industry in Europe, and expanded to the United States in 1977. Soon, prominent women from around the world spread his name like wildfire—admiring his work and enjoying his company.

US Expansion

The Manolo Blahnik flagship store in Europe is still at the Old Church Street in the Chelsea area in London. When he expanded to the US in the late 1970’s, department store Bloomingdale’s was the first to carry his pair. Soon after, prominent retailers in New York started buying his designs and selling them in their own stores. These were the likes of Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and Barneys. Beyond America and Europe, the brand has also opened boutiques in Dubai (specifically the famous Dubai Mall), Kuwait, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Seoul.

Iconic pairs that made a mark

Since the brand is one of the most publicized names in fashion because of media, there’s also been pairs from the label’s archives that have seen the test of time. Before “Sex and The City” ever came about, it was Princess Diana of Wales who was frequently spotted wearing the brand’s famous stiletto heels. Because of the iconic princess (as well as the hit HBO TV series), the stiletto heels have become synonymous with Manolo Blahnik. Although he’s prominent for his heel work, Blahnik was commissioned by pop star-turned-fashion designer Victoria Beckham to create a series of flats for her Spring 2013 fashion show. It was the first time the designer, known for her love of heels, exhibit flats on the runway, leading Blahnik to emerge in the fashion headlines again.

If there’s one pair that really stands out as Manolo Blahnik, it’s the bejewelled, royal blue stiletto heels used by Sarah Jessica Parker in the 2008 Sex And The City movie. It was used by Mr. Big (Chris Noth) to propose to Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) instead of a ring, creating a Cinderella-like moment. To this day, it remains to be one of the label’s most iconic and best-selling items.

Worn by famous personalities

Manolo Blahnik has a legion of devoted female fans, both famous and unknown. On the famous spectrum, there are the likes of actresses Kerry Washington, Rachel Weisz, and Margot Robbie. Style icon and model Bianca Jagger was also known as a prominent fan of the designer’s, and would often wear his shoes in the iconic Studio 74 nightclub in New York during the 70’s and 80’s. Today, pop stars such Beyonce and Rihanna are the ones dancing in the clubs in Manolo Blahnik’s.

The luxury shoe industry has been changed forever by Manolo Blahnik. No other designer nor brand has captured the acclaim, prestige, and publicity quite like the Spanish designer. His name is up there with the likes of Dior and Chanel, in terms of his undeniable influence and contribution to fashion and footwear.

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