Manolo Blahnik in the 2000s: The Shoe Star on ‘Sex and the City,’ Fantasy Shoes for ‘Marie Antoinette’ and His Famous Hangisi

In the 2000s, Manolo Blahnik was the ultimate shoe star.

That was thanks in part to his starring roles in “Sex and the City” and “Marie Antoinette,” which catapulted him to global fame.

Blahnik also debuted his first-ever museum restrospective at the London Design Museum in 2003, and his iconic Hangisi in 2008.

Here, the designer talks about his top Y2K moments.

The Real “Sex and the City” Story

Carrie Bradshaw was robbed for her Manolos. She discovered Blahnik Mary Janes in the Vogue shoe closet. And after her shoes were swiped at a baby shower, Ms. Bradshaw registered herself at the Manolo Blahnik boutique on 54th Street.

During its legendary six-year run that ended in 2004, Manolo and his shoes were almost like a fifth co-star — and his history with SATC actually began with author Candace Bushnell.

“I met her in the shop in London, and then I read the book, and it was fun, a really good time. And [I loved] Patricia Field, the lovely lady who did the costumes. We did have a wonderful time with those wonderful girls. It seems like such a long time ago. I remember they sent me the tape and I thought it was so boring in the beginning. But then I got into it. And I thought, ‘That is New York, the New York I didn’t know.”

Blahnik recalled that during a trip to Saint Petersburg, Russia a few years ago, he had retired to his hotel room for the night. “I was watching TV and then suddenly I heard something in another language. It was Carrie talking in Russian! They love “Sex and the City” in Russia. And it was 20 years later!”

A Rich Retrospective at London’s Design Museum

“I did exactly what I wanted in London in 2003. There were too many shoes actually, but I had this incredible luck. The National Gallery loaned me my favorite painting, Saint Margaret of Antioch by Francisco de Zurbarán, and I put it with boots I did for Balenciaga and a beautiful Balenciaga dress. I loved it so much. And then Saint Laurent was on the telephone saying to me, ‘Oh Manolo, anything you like.” He sent a woman to the studio in London with two dresses from the [spring ’67 haute couture] Bambara collection to go with my African-inspired shoes. I love Africa. It’s always been an inspiration to me since I was a boy, listening to music from Casablanca radio. All of the African music came to me in the islands.”

Manolo Blahnik, Marie Antoinette
Manolo Blahnik shoes for the 2006 film, “Marie Antoinette”
CREDIT: Janie Lightfoot Textiles

Fantasy Shoes for “Marie Antoinette”

 “It was so divine working with Sofia Coppola and [costume designer] Milena Canonero. Sofia loved the shoes so much. My friend Joe, who used to work with me, went to Paris with the shoes and took little things, bits and pieces of silk. The 18th century buckles, we found in Bath here. Sofia is very visually intelligent. She is one of the best people in America, someone Hollywood should cherish. Mind you, they also have Wes Anderson, who I love now. He’s coming out with “The French Dispatch” with Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand, who I adore. My favorite actresses in America are Frances and Uma Thurman — can you imagine how twisted I am?”

A Royal Honor

A longtime admirer of Queen Elizabeth Manolo Blahnik, received an honorary an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2007 from Her Majesty the Queen.

“It was the most unexpected honor to be recognized by Her Majesty the Queen for doing something I love. It was just wonderful, a true privilege.”

Manolo Blahnik Hangisi pumps, carrie bradshaw, mr. big, sex and the city movie
Mr. Big proposed to Carrie Bradshaw with Manolo Blahnik Hangisi pumps in 2008’s “Sex and the City.”
CREDIT: Courtesy

Hello, Hangisi

When the now legendary Hangisi pump with a crystal buckle launched for spring ’08, it became the shoe of the year, even before Mr. Big proposed to Carrie Bradshaw with the shoe in the “Sex and the City” film.

Blahnik said he dreamed up the style after a trip to Palermo, Italy to see an exhibition by the Italian portraitist Giovanni Boldini. “He painted European society ladies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and I noticed some of them had buckles on their shoes,” Blahnik said. There are also echoes of the traditional North African baboosh slippers, immortalized by the French artist Eugène Delacroix in “Women of Algiers,” the designer recalled, noting that they were “in a state of ecstasy in a harem.”

Since its grand debut, the Hangisi has been produced in over 100 materials and colorways, and evolved into boots, mules, d’Orsays and flats.

“It’s torture — it’s a horror story. It just goes on and on,” joked the designer in 2018, the Hangisi’s 10th anniversary year. “It’s one of those things that I cannot explain, but I do thank God for it. I never do things thinking they are going to be iconic. It was just a coincidence.”

The shoe is so popular that one woman Blahnik met on tour in the American south told him she bought 55 pairs in all the colors. “I thought it was a little obscene, but it was funny. She’d have bought more, but we didn’t have any more to sell her at the time.”

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