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Manolo Blahnik in the 2010s: The Designer Talks Rihanna, Demna + Reveals the Real Story Behind Kate Moss’ Wedding Shoes

An attention-grabbing documentary. A global museum exhibit. Star-studded collaborations.

The 2010s were frenetic — and unforgettable — for the designer.

Here, Blahnik talks about “The Boy Who Made Shoes For Lizards,” “The Art of Shoes” exhibit — and working with Rihanna and Demna Gvasalia. Plus, the designer reveals the real story behind Kate Moss’ wedding shoes.

Kate Moss Walks Down the Aisle in Blahniks, But the Shoes Almost Didn’t Arrive

In 2011, when the designer was asked to craft the perfect pair of wedding shoes to match Kate Moss’ John Galliano dress, he was all in.

“We finished the shoe and the heel was full of pearls, [placed] one by one,” Blahnik recalled. “And then the day before, she tried them on and she said, ‘Oh my shoe is catching on the dress. I have to have it with no pearls.’ So we got another version, and [a team member] came back on the last plane from Milan with the new shoes for the wedding the next morning.”

The designer remembered having the “most beautiful time” at the wedding in the Cotswolds, where he was at a table with [actress] Anita Pallenberg and [singer] Maryanne Faithful. “Kate was beautiful, she is still beautiful.

Kate Moss, Manolo Blahnik wedding shoes
Manolo Blahnik’s wedding shoes for Kate Moss
CREDIT: Courtesy of Manolo Blahnik

A Major Moment on the FNAA Stage

For FN’s inaugural lifetime achievement award in 2011, there was only one choice: Mr. Blahnik — and he accepted it with his signature humor and humility.

“I’ve never really thought about my success, but I guess it’s true. I have been going for a while. Suddenly, people seem to really like my shoes again. But you know, those furniture shoes were fashionable for three or four years. I did platforms in the 1970s, so that wasn’t new to me. I’ve never followed trends or gotten into the frenzy of doing the ‘right’ shoes.”

Footwear News Achievement Awards
Manolo Blahnik and Patricia Field at the 2011 FNAAs, when he received the lifetime achievement award.
CREDIT: FN Archives

When Manolo Met Demna   

“Ahh, the Georgian boys, good lord!”

While they might have been an unexpected match, Blahnik said he relished the opportunity to work with Demna and Guram Gvasalia for the Vetements fall ’16 Paris Couture show.

“They said, ‘We want some shoes that look very sexy, but like waders. And I said, ‘I’ll give them to you right now.’

Demna made a series of tweaks to Blahnik’s Hangisi, removing the sparkly signature buckle and transforming the satin shoes into a slingback, a court style, ankle boots and the centerpiece: the thigh-highs. Working alongside Blahnik, Gvasalia also deconstructed the shoes, giving them frayed edges and unfinished closings as if scissors have been taken to them.

“They were beautiful and sold incredibly well. The boots were so high, they arrived to the hip on small girls. It was wonderful to work with those boys. I love that challenge,” the designer said.

Manolo Blahnik x Vetements collaboration waist-high boots.
Manolo Blahnik x Vetements collaboration waist-high boots.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

Queen Rihanna x King Manolo

What a pair. Rihanna and Manolo teamed up for three collaborative collections — a denim-driven offer, sexy winter boots (including a tribute to JLo’s Y2K Manolo Timbs) and stone-embellished sandals.

“I enjoy everything about Manolo. He is such an incredible human being,” Rihanna told FN in 2016. “I was blessed with the opportunity to see him create from scratch. He’s so passionate about what he does, and it makes it so worth it when you buy or wear a pair of his shoes, because you know what went into it. He’s not ‘copy and paste.’ He’s not letting anyone do his work. He still loves everything about shoes, and it’s so refreshing.”

Blahnik was just clearly just as enamored. “She is so beautiful when she looks at you with those green eyes,” he said as he recalled their time working together on hot summer mornings in New York. “You just say to her, ‘I would do anything for you, dear.’ Her beauty fascinates me, captivates me. I love the movement of women, and the way Rihanna moves her neck is fabulous,” he said of the star.

Rihanna Manolo Blahnik So Stoned Shoes
Rihanna x Manolo Blahnik #Sostoned Bajan Princess mules.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

A Star is Born

Manolo was made for the big screen. His cinematic life — which began with an idyllic childhood in his beloved Canary Islands — was chronicled in his 2017 documentary, Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards.

Rihanna, Karlie Kloss, Naomi Campbell, Iman, André Leon Talley and Rupert Everett all celebrate Blahnik in the film, too, along with designers Charlotte Olympia Dellal and Isaac Mizrahi, classicist Mary Beard and many others.

“It’s been a great experience, but it’s taking too much of my energy,” he said at the time. “Dealing with editors and producers has been an absolute nightmare. I don’t want to see my stupid self anymore. People might walk into the theater and say, ‘Who is that freak?’ I asked [close friend and director] Michael [Roberts] to film the back of me all the time, but it didn’t happen that way.”

Museum Moments

The same year Blahnik debuted his documentary, he was touring the world with his alluring “Art of Shoes” exhibit. Among his most memorable tour stops? Madrid and St. Petersburg.

“Oh! Madrid was a mess, I loved it! Everybody who was anybody in Spain was there — Pedro Almodóvar, Paz Vega and all those actors. It was a sort of incredible feeling being home, and having people who love you come. It was very touching. But my favorite stop was in St. Petersburg, I had to learn a little thing in Russian, because I think it’s good to do that when you go to a country. But then somehow the people said, ‘More, more!’ And I said ‘I’m sorry, but ladies and gentleman I cannot go more, this is phonetically learned.’ They loved it, though. They were clapping — on the huge, huge stairs of the Hermitage.”  

Manolo Blahnik, Manolo Blahnik shoe exhibit, Bata Shoe Museum
A look inside the “Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes” exhibit at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.
CREDIT: Courtesy

A Paris Homecoming

The opening of Blahnik’s flagship boutique in July 19 in the city’s historic Palais-Royale was a particularly special moment for Blahnik, who studied art and set design in the City of Light during the 1968 student uprising.

“I was terrified and watched from the window. It was a huge spectacle with screaming and cars burning in the street. I’d never seen such a thing,” he said. However, his fear soon gave way to excitement, and he took to the streets to join the throng, walking the length of the capital. “It was my reckless youth,” he laughed.

To celebrate the opening, the designer hosted a private dinner at Parisian restaurant Lapérouse, a cultural institution on the Left Bank that dates to 1766.

“I remember having dinner here in the ’60s with Paloma Picasso and Andy Warhol’s manager Fred Hughes, but it was much more scruffy then, not very chic at all,” the designer said.

Manolo Blahnik exclusive to the brand's new Paris flagship store.
Manolo Blahnik created this exclusive design for the opening of his Paris store.
CREDIT: Manolo Blahnik
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