Born to a Czech father and a Spanish mother and raised in the Canary Islands (Spain), Blahnik graduated from the University of Geneva in 1965 and studied art in Paris. He moved to London in 1968 to work at fashion boutique “Zapata” and wrote for Vogue Italia. After showing his portfolio of fashions and set designs to Diana Vreeland, she told him that he should design only footwear. In 1972, Ossie Clark invited him to create shoes for his runway show. With a loan of £2,000, Blahnik bought Zapata from its owner and opened his own boutique.
In the 1970s, when chunky platform shoes and boots were the mainstream footwear styling of the day, Manolo Blahnik turned back his attention to the stiletto heel, which has remained the brand’s mainstay to this day. Manolo Blahnik shoes have rapidly become a symbol of pure classical style for the 21st century.
Manolo Blahnik’s flagship store remains to date in Old Church Street in the fashionable Chelsea district of London.
Blahnik’s boutiques are located in London, New York, Las Vegas, Dublin, Athens, Madrid, Istanbul, Dubai, Kuwait, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore and Stockholm. Bloomingdales (for which he created his first American collection), Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue carry his line in the United States and newly opened in Dubai Mall. The company has signed a long-term deal with the shoewear retailer Kurt Geiger to operate Manolo Blahnik boutiques.
Blahnik was awarded the honorary title of Commander of the British Empire in 2007 for his service to the British fashion industry.