On July 5, 1973, Footwear News featured a sexy Manolo Blahnik high-heel sandal on page one, calling it “the most talked-about shoe in London.” It was the fledgling designer’s first big splash in this publication.
Fast forward 38 years to 2011, when we ran a cover story (one of many over the years) on the designer when we honored him with FN’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement award, which subsequently became known as the Manolo Blahnik Lifetime Achievement Award.
At this point, Blahnik had designed an astonishing 30,000 shoes and continued to get more energized about his work with the arrival of every new season. “Oh, the [fall ’12] collection is so beautiful,” he said in his almost-musical voice. “I’m so lucky. I just love what I do!”
As part of the feature, we quizzed the designer on a few of his favorite things, his first design job, happiest moment and more. In addition, we talked to industry power-players and celebrities about the designer’s power, and each had their own stories to tell
Read on for the full scoop.
His first design job:
“Growing up [in the Canary Islands], I grabbed any animal walking around and made them shoes with silver foil. I had a fox terrier and made shoes for him. I made them for lizards. I’ve always had a fixation with limbs.”
His alternate career choice:
“My mother wanted me to be a writer. Or I would be directing movies or dressing them up. But it’s too late for that now. Maybe later, I can do my memoirs. But that would be so tiring!”
Some of his favorite ladies:
“Paloma Picasso, Bianca Jagger, Tina Chow, Loulou de la Falaise. They’re ‘my time’ girls. I was so sad [when Loulou died]. She used to come into the store and try things on. I remember going to her wedding, too. We had such an amazing time.”
His happiest moment:
“I’ve had millions of them. The greatest fun moment of my life was when Juan Carlos I, the king of Spain, gave me a wonderful award in 2002. I went to the palace, and it was great fun.”
The best film of all time:
“My favorite is ‘The Leopard’ with Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale. It was so beautifully done. I have a list going of many other favorites. I love Italian movies, French movies, Spanish movies. You know what I really love now? Silent movies.”
“Manolo and I became fast friends, and that friendship has just gotten stronger over the years. It can be like a very strange marriage, and it’s volatile at times. But we’re always very honest with each other. … I think Manolo is often misunderstood. He can be very flamboyant and boisterous, but [underneath], he’s this shy, sensitive guy. His greatest virtue is his humility. I’ve always applauded him for that,” George Malkemus.
“He’s just a dream. Manolo has lifted so many women out of the doldrums and given them glamour and glory and shoes that don’t hurt. He brings everything to the party. He’s just a fantastic human being with a great sense of humor,” Bette Midler.
“On my list of creative geniuses, Manolo is at the top. He broke the mold. I’ve never seen a mind work like that before. He always has a thirst [to discover something new]. We were taking a walk through the shop recently, and he was bouncing up and down, pointing at things and asking, ‘What’s this, what’s that?’ He’s never lost that sense of curiosity,” Ed Burstell, managing director, Liberty.
“I’ve been an avid collector of Manolo’s shoes since I first slipped my foot into one of his exquisite creations. I was over the moon when he agreed to design my wedding shoes,” Kate Moss.
“Manolo is just one of those beautiful people who’s a joy to be around. When ‘Sex & the City’ started, I knew that Sarah Jessica [Parker] liked Manolo’s shoes, so we went to him and got a bunch. We both loved working with him. He was there from the beginning of the series, when no one knew how popular the show was going to be,” Patricia Field.