Category Archives: Designers

Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahnik is the modern legend for today’s stiletto heel, probably the greatest shoemaker of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The maestro of mules did not come from fashion royalty: Manolo Blahnik was born in 1943 on his parents’ banana plantation in the Canary Islands. After an unsuccessful time studying law and politics in Geneva, he moved to Paris in the mid-1960s to study set design.

Yet Blahnik’s interest in footwear was formed early in life. In the 2017 bio-pic Manolo: the boy who made shoes for lizards, Blahnik recounts that he would capture lizards on the island when he was a child and make shoes for them out of Cadbury’s foil chocolate wrappers!

As a child Blahnik had also been enchanted by his nanny’s “fantastic” espadrilles and his mother’s spectacular shoe collection – she was “mad for shoes” he said.

Upon meeting Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue Magazine in American, Blahnik took an interest in designing shoes and introduced his first collection for Ossie Clark in 1972. Clark was “the man” in London at those times, and Blahnik has always counted himself lucky to get the design brief.

“Focus on extremities!” Vreedland had earlier told Blahnik when meeting him in 1970. “Oh my dear boy, do accessories”, she implored the young designer according to Blahnik himself. “Do shoes, shoes!”


Blahnik gathered a slew of celebrity friends as he partied his way around London, and became known for the shoes that Bianca Jagger wore for her big entrance on a white horse to Studio 54 in 1977.

Although well known in fashion circles by then, Blahnik became much of a household name due to the love affair that Carrie presented his shoes in Sex in the City on HBO in early 2000’s.

Since then, the name “Manolos” is frequently referred to in popular music, movies, TV shoes, and other pop culture references.  His sensual style has become the gold standard in which stilettos are thought of.

Manolo Blahnik

The first man on the cover of British Vogue, Blahnik is also a firm favorite of current Vogue editor Anna Wintour. “I can’t remember the last time I wore somebody else’s shoes,” Wintour has said. “I mean I just don’t even look at them!”

After designing over 25,000 shoes, Blahnik still sketches around 600 pairs a year. He is always seen doing this while wearing gloves because the inks he uses – from the legendary Dr Ph Martins – go straight into the skin and don’t come out easily.

Still carving the first wooden shoe lasts for his new models even though he is in his 70s, Blahnik has confessed that “My joy in life is spending time in the factories… It’s quiet sad to say, but this is the only thing that I love!”

The trade off is that many claim that his stilettos are the most comfortable of their style, as Blahnik has a true understanding of the contours of a woman’s foot.

Roger Vivier

The world of stiletto heels owes its popularity if not its existence to French designer Roger Vivier.  Named for the Italian word meaning small metal dagger, stilettos became an international sensation when Vivier first introduced them in 1954 for the House of Dior.

While the idea of a stiletto heel was hinted at through fetish drawings in the late 1800’s, they were not created for mass appeal until his unveiling. Even today, many years after his death in 1998, Vivier is known as the “father of high heels” or the “Fabergé of Footwear.”

Roger Vivier’s early career

In 1937 Roger Vivier founded his own boutique and atelier (meaning “workshop” or “studio”) in Paris, from which he began to sell women’s shoes that he had designed.

sexy sandals

Top sexy high heels

These items of fantasy footwear may never leave the house, but they're guaranteed to spice things up in the bedroom ...
Read More

However, with World War 2 looming, Vivier escaped by boat to the United States of America. There he continued shoemaking until the USA entered the war in 1942 and passed a law restricting the production of new shoes.

Undeterred, Vivier turned his skills to making exquisite hats, opening a shop on Madison Ave in New York. He returned to France in 1947, having taken the opportunity to meet Christian Dior on the boat on the way back. From here his career would really take off.

Post war years

On his return to Paris, Vivier experimented with the use of clear plastics in the footwear industry (yes, like you might see today on stripper shoes) but his key achievement was to team up as the designer for Christian Dior in 1953. This was the first time that a couturier had ever directly associated his brand name with a shoemaker’s to promote a mass-market shoe line.

The shoe line took off. During this time, Vivier also created incredible masterpieces of luxury shoes that were worn by the wealthy, celebrities, and even royalty.  Queen Elizabeth II wore his shoes for her coronation in 1953.  His use of opulent silks, jewels, beading, lace, and other appliqués were a credit to his masterful style.

One year later, in 1954 Vivier increased the height of the heels he was producing from 6cm to 8cm (2.3 inches to 3.1 inches).

Using a thin metal rod, he designed the infamous thin high heel of the stiletto as if it were a piece of sculpture, which he had studied at the Ecole des Beaux in Paris.  (Vivier had left his studies to design for a shoe factory in 1936, at the beginning of his career).

Vivier would forever after be known as one of the inventors of the stiletto heel.

Later career and death


When Christian Dior died in 1957, Roger began a collaboration with Dior’s successor, Yves Saint Laurent.

His best was yet to come:  in 1967, Catherine Deneuve wore Rogier Vivier pilgrim shoes in the movie Belle de Jour. The movie was a huge success and the buckle “pilgrim” shoes went on to become Vivier’s best seller.

Today we still see the legacy that Vivier left behind in the way his designs still influence.

Perhaps unlike modern celebrity shoemakers, Vivier remained a quiet soul – unobtrusive and modest to the end. He died in 1998 aged 91, leaving one son.