Manolo Blahník has been designing shoes since 1971 and has received many prestigious awards, including three special awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and the British Council’s ‘Accessory Designer of the Year’ in 1990 and 1999. Despite having had no formal training, he's done it all: backless, heel-less, wedges, stilettos, and kittens, even platforms. Now he is one of the very few brand names that have become a synonym for the product — Hoover, Kleenex, Band-Aid, Post-it and … Manolo.
He studied literature and architecture at the University of Geneva, and art at L’École des Beaux-Arts and L’École du Louvre in Paris. Originally, he wanted to be a set designer and took a portfolio of drawings to New York in 1971 in the hope of finding work there. Paloma Picasso, a friend from Paris, arranged for him to meet Diana Vreeland, the editor of US Vogue. When she looked at his drawings, Vreeland exclaimed: “How amusing. Amusing. You can do accessories very well. Why don’t you do that? Go make shoes. Your shoes in these drawings are so amusing.”
By the late 1990s when the fashion writer and historian Colin McDowell observed Blahnik at work, he had been in command of his craft for years. The result is the book titled simply “Manolo Blahnik”. The process of creating a Manolo Blahnik shoe begins with Manolo sketching it at home in Bath, his London office or one of his northern Italian factories with a Tombo Japanese brush pen in three minutes of “firm, assured hand movements followed by precise, sharp little jabs as the details are fitted in”. “I’ve been studying the art of the shoe… for over twenty years”, says Blahnik. “I know every process. 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 centimeters high it still has to feel secure...
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