Manolo Blahnik has always surrounded himself with an eclectic group of friends and admirers. As the designer marks his 50th anniversary, 14 fashion insiders sound off on his enduring influence.
“Every time I get dressed in the morning, Manolo is there. How wonderful it is to have one of my oldest friends — a charming, hilarious erudite, an utterly brilliant man — always with me.”
“I have wonderful memories of Manolo sitting in my studio when we collaborated on shoes for one of my collections. He had his pad on his knee, and was beautifully sketching a gladiator sandal that would later walk the runway.” I have always loved the BB pump — nobody does a toe cleavage like Manolo.”
“The first time I ever bought anything ‘designer’ was from Manolo B. I spent my month’s rent on them and they transported me to heaven every time I looked at them. Everyone would go to his Church St shop to see and wonder at his new collections when they came out – like in a gallery. We also collected his wonderfully-drawn advertisements and stuck them on our wall. Later, when I knew him, he was always charming and kissed my hand, and I felt like I should curtsey as he was true fashion royalty.”
”I have been wearing Manolo Blahnik shoes since the beginning. Some of the very first shoes I still have in my closet. They are classics, absolute works of art that will always live in my closet.”
“My fondest memories of Manolo are when he worked in our first London shop called Feathers in Kensington High Street. His task was to manage the customer’s requirement list of Newman’s velvet jeans, which was the ‘it’ pant of the moment. I must say he was not brilliant at keeping the list but he was so charming the customers kept coming back to chat with him. At that time, I was known as Mrs. Sidney and Manolo would call me daily to look at his portfolio. I never got to see it because he never brought it in for me, but of course it was Shoes!! Therefore, I cannot make any claims to discovering him, but only for opening the door to obtain a visa which allowed him to work here. This is something he has always appreciated and acknowledged.
In the beginning , once he established his workroom, Manolo did everything himself. From creating the lasts, sourcing the skins and fabrics, to making the end product of bespoke Manolo Blahnik shoes. On top of it all, he is a very humble, charming man and we have established and maintained an enduring friendship.”
“I always admired my moms collection of Manolos when I was little. They were so elegant and grown up! They always stood like out from all the other shoes in her closet. They are actual jewelry for the feet.”
Linda Fargo, Bergdorf Goodman
“How many other shoe designers are as famous as their wearers, and are known from Poughkeepsie to Portland to Paris? Manolo has managed to stir the flames of desirability in a remarkable range of people of all ages and backgrounds. We know we can trust him to design beautiful, feminine dreams of a shoe, and not fall victim to crazy trends. He knows who his women are, and never loses sight of them. I’ll always remember seeing him signing shoes and autographs with wonderful colorful flourishes in our shoe salon — looking so incredibly dapper and elegant — and then heading down to the street and taking extraordinary joy in the windows we would create for him. He always displayed beautiful manners, and all we wanted to do was just to make him cry out loud with that special Manolo delight.”— Linda Fargo, SVP of the fashion office and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman
“Manolo Blahnik played a huge role in making designer shoes a thing — not just an accessory — but a statement that you can build your entire outfit around.”
Sandra Choi, Jimmy Choo
“Manolo is a master of our time. He’s utterly charming, enlightening and has a certain flavor when he speaks that transports you to his wonderland. He opens up the creative world to fantasy with his designs, his shoes are like objects of art that are instantly recognizable and inspire everyone around the world.” — Sandra Choi, creative director, Jimmy Choo
“At 19 years old, I was sitting on the stairs having a cigarette break, pondering what it was exactly I wanted to do with my life. I witnessed the inimitable Isabella Blow prance into the designers’ studio i was interning in at the time — like a majestic queen — wearing a custom pair of Manolo Blahniks. I was in love, with her of course, but it was those exquisite works of art that adorned her feet, and the way they carried her that ignited a spark in my head. It was in that moment of clarity that I knew wanted to be a shoe designer. There was no other option, Manolo had inspired my future and there was no turning back.” — Nicholas Kirkwood, designer
Tracy Margolies, Saks
“Soon after I returned to Saks in 2015, I had the opportunity to visit the Manolo Blahnik townhouse in London where the brand has its headquarters and get an intimate tour of the space with Mr. Blahnik himself. It was amazing to see inside the stunning world of Manolo and be a part of his incredible legacy. The brand has become such a staple in the fashion industry that “Manolo” is now used as an adjective. ‘That’s so Manolo’ is a common phrase used among fashion insiders and footwear enthusiasts.” – Tracy Margolies, Chief Merchandising Officer, Saks Fifth Avenue
Julee Butler, Neiman Marcus
“My first time meeting Mr. Blahnik was at a personal appearance he made for our top Neiman Marcus clients in the Palm Beach store. He was impeccably dressed in a 3-piece pale lilac suit with a pink and white polka-dot bowtie. I loved his quick wit and his dapper personality, and he graciously signed our customers’ coveted Manolos and posed in hundreds of photos with his very loyal customers. My favorite Manolo Blahnik shoe is the famous BB pump that he named after the actress Brigitte Bardot. It is the quintessential luxury shoe that every woman should have in her wardrobe. It doesn’t have the bling embellishment that is signature to so many of the Manolo styles, but there is something magical about the lines. It is simply the best of what understated luxury has to offer.” — Julee Butler, VP and DMM of designer shoes
Neil Cilfford, Kurt Geiger
“Manolo is the only brand my 25-year luxury shoe management history where I had to go for a 3-hour interview with all the family to convince them we would be good partners to work with. An adorable brand brand and even more adorable family.”
Charlotte Olympia Dellal
“Most girls grow up trying on their mother’s shoes, and I was lucky to have one that had Manolos, so my informal shoe education started there. When I was about 20 I got a little Yorkie puppy and named him Manolo. I snuck him to Cordwainers College where I studied footwear design and was soon found out, but he was allowed to stay for the rest of the day as a class mascot only because of his name.