End of an Era: George Malkemus Ends Partnership With Manolo Blahnik After 37 Years

One of the industry’s most storied partnerships is coming to an end.

George Malkemus, president of Manolo Blahnik USA, said today that he and partner Anthony Yurgaitis have opted not to renew their licensing deal with the legendary designer.

In a press statement, Malkemus said that Kristina Blahnik, the designer’s niece and CEO of the international business, along with her in-house counsel, offered unacceptable terms. (FN has reached out to Kristina Blahnik for comment.)

Manolo Blahnik with George Malkemus in 2005.
CREDIT: Courtesy Image

The designer and Malkemus, who speak by phone almost every day, built one of the most successful, familial and long-lasting designer-executive relationships. They grew Blahnik into a household name that played a starring role in “Sex and the City” and occupies prime spots in every major department store.

Kristina Blahnik, George Malkemus and Manolo Blahnik in 2010.

The pair first teamed up in 1982 after a brief meeting when the two spoke about their love for — and ownership of — Scottish terriers. “Neither of us were greedy. We wanted to do this at our pace and to learn the ropes as we went along,” Malkemus recalled when he was honored with FN’s Hall of Fame award in 2009. “That way, the mistakes we’d make would be small mistakes rather than large ones, and that’s the philosophy we’ve always kept.”

“It’s a balance thing for us,” Blahnik told FN in 2009. “George is a very good businessman. He’s patient. I am not. When it comes to money and things like that, I’m totally innocent. I don’t want to know. It’s always been my strength not to be involved in the business end. George is very constant. You can count on him. He knows what people want, what the big stores want, what the ladies of certain states want — he’s very good at those things, which I am not.”

For their part, retailers were surprised by the sudden breakup.

“As someone who has been a buyer of Manolo Blahnik for 32 years, I find this news to be sad,” said Jeffrey Kalinsky, founder of Jeffrey and also VP and designer fashion director at Nordstrom. “George and Manolo seemed to be the perfect balance of art and commerce.”

In a separate business venture, Malkemus also partners with Sarah Jessica Parker on her SJP Collection footwear line.

Watch FN’s video featuring designer Manolo Blahnik below.

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