With a career spanning 40 years, Manolo Blahnik has become one of the world’s most influential footwear designers. His shoes have spellbound an international set of adoring and loyal devotees across the globe.
The United States has recognised Manolo Blahnik’s exuberant brilliance over the years, with the CFDA honouring his talent with awards in 1987, 1990 1998. The British Fashion Council presented awards in 1990, 1999 and 2003, whilst his native Spain has presented him with La Aguja de Oro (2001) and La Medalla de Oro en Merito en las Bellas Artes, awarded by His Majesty Don Juan Carlos I, King of Spain.
In November 2007, Manolo Blahnik was awarded an Honorary CBE in recognition of his status as one of the most successful and influential designers of our time. In September 2008 he was also presented with the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award. In November 2011 Manolo received the Footwear News Lifetime Achievement Award in the United States. In 2012 he was awarded the British Fashion Council Outstanding Achievement Award and the very prestigious Premio Nacional de Diseño de Moda in Spain. In September 2013 Manolo Blahnik for the very first time staged a presentation at London Fashion Week and in 2014 in New York City and in September 2015 his latest tome MANOLO BLAHNIK : Fleeting Gesture and Obsessions published by Rizzoli is the definitive monograph featuring more than 40 years of shoe design. Drawing inspiration from the world of architecture, art, film and literature.
J’Adore the book! How long did it take to complete?
Thank you, I’m glad you like it! It has been a very long journey, almost two years working every day on the book. Conversations, image research, translations, trips… there are so many things involved that I couldn’t even think of when I started working on this project. I have to say though I really enjoyed every minute that I spent working on it and couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
It’s full of inspirations from art, culture and travel…please enlighten us. How did you reach to this idea for a book on shoes?
Rizzoli approached me with the idea of coming up with a book. I immediately knew I wanted to do something different from what I had done in the past. Nothing related exclusively to shoes or about me, but about my inspirations, my obsessions and people that I admire. A kind of visual diary and conversations with people who I learn from – and I wanted to share it with everybody.
What was your first shoe design?
My first shoe design was a round toe block heel ankle strap shoe, which I made for Ossie Clark in 1971 for his runway show. I will always be thankful for this opportunity I was given in life. I remember being very nervous before the show and was impatient to see people’s reactions, gladly they loved the shoes and the way the models walked on them, which made me realize I wanted to continue working on the design of shoes. All this wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Ms. Diana Vreeland’s advice. I met her once, introduced by my friend Paloma Picasso and my other friend the photographer Maurice Hogenboom, and showed her my drawings – at the time I wanted to become a stage and costume designer- she recommended me to focus on the design of shoes. I was, still am, and always will be a great admirer of her!
What has been the biggest challenge that you have overcome in business?
There are so many challenges throughout a career but I do not remember them, I try to stay positive and see only the good part of it. I feel very lucky to be able to do what I love.
What are the 3 shoe styles that everywoman should for Fall this year?
Flat shoes! A woman who knows how to walk in flat shoes can be very elegant and charming, although I understand it’s not always easy. For Autumn/Winter I like a knee high flat horse riding boot or a flat printed pump with an ankle strap for the day. For a more elegant endorsement, a shoe with special ornaments or beads would be my must.
Where is your favorite destination?
I truly enjoy going back to the island I was born in. I grew up there and it brings me memories from my childhood which is always nice. My other favourite place to go is Italy, specially my beloved island of Sicily where I have spent many holidays over the years. The beautiful coral and colours have inspired me many times in my designs.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Books, films, museums… I have to admit this is what I enjoy the most. I read every day before going to bed and watch films all the time. Every time I got to New York I spend one day buying films that I can’t find here in London. Museums are my other obsession, when I am in Madrid you can always find me at ‘El Prado’, I can get lost there for hours!
I’m honored that one of my photos by Michael Roberts made it in the book. How did you select the images you wanted to include?
Of course the book wouldn’t have been complete without your marvelous image by Michael Roberts! Choosing the images felt quite natural, as I am a very visual person and have been collecting beautiful images over the years. When I see a picture or image that I like it is very difficult for me to forget it, so when I was working on the book I knew exactly which images I wanted to include – the ones that have inspired me over the years.
“Manolo Blahnik’s shoes are as good as sex. And they last longer.”—Madonna
El Prado Museum Madrid
Iman by Michael Roberts