Shoe Guru Manolo Blahnik Honored for Artistry by FIT Museum

Manolo Blahnik.
Photo: courtesy Ilir Bajraktari/PatrickMcMullan.

Shoe guru Manolo Blahnik will be honored in September with the Couture Council for Artistry of Fashion Award from the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Mr. Blahnik, who at one time hobnobbed with Bianca Jagger, Tina Chow, and Paloma Picasso in the 1970s, celebrated his namesake label’s 40th anniversary in 2012. Now in his seventies, the designer will receive one of the few international awards arbitrated by a panel of editors, retailers, and journalists.

Past recipients have included Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino, the late Oscar de la Renta, and Carolina Herrera; Mr. Blahnik will be the first footwear designer to be honored, reports the New York Times.

Born and raised in the Canary Islands, the Spanish designer got his start when legendary Harper’s Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland told him to “do shoes.” The elegant and timeless aesthetic of his shoes, not to mention their extremely comfortable shapes, struck a cord with the fashion crowd. And thanks to Sex and the City, “Manolo Blahnik” was cemented into every fangirl’s mind when Sarah Jessica Parker dropped the designer’s name in several episodes.

But Mr. Blahnik’s career was not all smooth sailing, his label took a back seat soon after 2007 when contemporary shoe designers, particularly Christian Louboutin, began to hijack his customers selling the fast thrills of ostentatious and flashy shoes. The market seemed to veer away from Blahnik’s pared down aesthetic.

Sticking true to his roots, Mr. Blahnik didn’t pander to shoe trends, and by 2012, his label was back in style.

The designer says retirement isn’t on his horizon. This fall, he will publish a coffee table book, a look back on his life and career, with contributions from Sofia Coppola, Pedro Almodóvar, and English Classics scholar Mary Beard. He is working on a touring exhibition of his work set to debut in 2017, which will make stops in Prague, Venice, St. Petersburg, and Hong Kong. And he is also working on a film with his friend, the fashion journalist Michael Roberts.

“I reached a point in my life where I realized that what I do is connected with fashion, in some way, but it’s completely out of it,” Mr. Blahnik told the Times. “And I quite enjoy that. I change very little every year.”


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