Manolo Blahnik is one of the most recognizable names in luxury footwear. Known for its classic dress pumps and sandals, the Manolo Blahnik brand helped define high-end footwear from the mid-1970s through the present. Founded in 1973 in London, this shoe brand expanded from its original Chelsea district boutique and became an international staple in high-end department stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Barneys, and Saks Fifth Avenue. The brand has also earned a definitive place in pop cultural history. From its frequent references in the groundbreaking television show Sex and the City, to its appearances in Hollywood blockbusters such as The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn and Fifty Shades of Grey, Manolo Blahniks have become the must-have luxury statement in the modern fashionista’s closet.
Named after its Spanish founder, the Manolo Blahnik brand produces stiletto pumps and strappy sandals appropriate for a variety of occasions. For example, famous actresses have worn the stiletto heels to parties and premieres, and fashion-conscious women have worn the sandals to outdoor events and weddings. With its legendary name, it is often easy to lose sight of the distinctive traits that give the brand its luxury status. A look at the most important qualities of the Manolo Blahnik brand will provide insight into the major benefits of owning these iconic shoes.
Manolo Blahnik Overview
Manolo Blahnik shoes feature a distinctive style that stand apart from mass-production shoe brands. One of the key traits of this brand is the limited release each season. These small production numbers keep the brand exclusive, and its emphasis on design quality over quantity or shock value make the shoes recognizable during most fashion events. Fashion historians credit Manolo Blahnik with the revival of the stiletto heel, and interested customers should expect to encounter this style most frequently. The stiletto heel forms the foundation of the brand, and from here, variations include pumps, sandals, and limited edition semi-flats. The flagship classic Manolo stiletto heels include the BB pump, Hangisi jewel pump, waterfowl inspired Swan pump, Campari pump, and the Chaos sandal.
The Manolo Blahnik brand has also gained prominence due to its founder, who often expresses an unwavering commitment to tradition shoe design. Born in the Canary Islands, founder Manolo Blahnik studied literature and architecture in college, then followed his studies with a stint working at a vintage clothing shop. From there, Blahnik worked as a writer for Italy’s L’Uomo Vogue. During his tenure as a writer, Blahnik used his spare time to work on a portfolio of shoe sketches based on fashions he observed during childhood. Both his mother and aunt purchased high-end clothing from Paris and Milan, and Blahnik also developed a taste for high end shoes from his mother.
Dissatisfied with the quality of local shoes, his mother simply made her own, incorporating luxury materials such as satin, brocade, and silk. Once Blahnik opened his own shoe boutique in 1973, he incorporated these same techniques and materials he learned from his upper class mother. Today, individuals who own Manolo Blahnik shoes can enjoy the luxurious feel of satin, silk, lace, and brocade that reflects Blahnik’s ideals of femininity. In addition to boutiques, shoe enthusiasts can purchase the brands from major retailers such as Barneys and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Manolo Blahnik Brand Pros:
- Brand recognition and exclusivity;
- Each shoe design hand-crafted by Manolo Blahnik himself;
- Expert care guide for shoe longevity;
- Availability at major retailers such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus;
- Made of high-quality luxury materials such as silk, satin, Spanish lace, and leather.
Manolo Blahnik Brand Cons:
- Often limited release;
- No plans for expansion into casual or athletic wear;
- Options may be limited for wide width.
When you purchase a pair of Manolo Blahniks, you join a league of women who have elevated the brand to cultural icon status. For example, in the long-running HBO show Sex and the City, the brand represents personal freedom and impeccable good taste. Affectionately nicknamed “Manolos,” the shoes routinely appear throughout the series. In the final season, Manolo Blahnik’s classic silver d’Orsay heels form the central subject in the episode “A Woman’s Right to Shoes.” The show also references the monetary value when a street assailant robs the lead character of her Manolo Blahnik sandals.
Other important pop culture appearances include The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, in which Bella Swan slipped into a pair of Manolo Blahnik Swan pumps for her wedding to Edward Cullen. In Fifty Shades of Grey, alpha male Christian Grey presents Anastasia Steele with a pair of mirrored Manolo Blahniks in Aspen, Colorado. Each representation of Manolo Blahnik in the media showcases its appeal in modern fashion, despite the fact that the original design has changed very little over time.
As luxury goods, Manolo Blahnik shoes also uphold quality standards based on longstanding European tradition. Founder Manolo Blahnik often recalls that as a child, his mother worked with a local cobbler to learn the art of handcrafting shoes. Blahnik himself follows the same process in making today’s shows, not only sketching the design and choosing materials, but also crafting each shoe himself. He also carves the traditional wooden frame himself, then sculpts the shoe onto the wooden dummy for the final result. This brand allows women to enjoy the quality of handmade shoes, designed using traditional methods that stand the test of time.
Manolo Blahnik Signature Specs
Due to its status as a luxury brand, Manolo Blahnik emphasizes quality over standardized mass-market specifications. Each shoe in the lineup is made of authentic materials based on its series. Depending on the edition you choose, a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes may consist of the following:
- Premium calf or nappa leather;
- Authentic satin;
- Linen, Egyptian cotton, or canvas;
- Patent leather;
- Spanish lace;
- Swarovoski crystal;
- Calf hair;
- Metallic leather;
- Exotic leather.
The five classic Manolo Blahnik stiletto heels form the foundation of the brand’s footwear line. Each of these flagship heels features signature specifications. A look at the important specs can help you determine which series fits your personality and style.
- BB Pump: According to the company’s founder, the BB pump features the most traditional European cut and shape. Blahnik named this shoe for French actress Brigitte Bardot, who served as his fashion muse throughout the 1970s. Declared a classic in 2008, the BB pump matches a variety of outfits. With its pointy toe and slim 105mm high heel, this shoe emphasizes feminine style and can accentuate the body of any woman. The shoe is made of 100 percent premium kid suede with a cow leather padded insole. Made in Italy, this line also features Italian sizing.
- Hangisi Pump: Fashion enthusiasts can instantly recognize the Hangisi due to its distinctive jewel buckle. Named after a whimsical Turkish word, this pump represents opulence. According to the company, founder Manolo Blahnik designed the shoe based on the court of Emperor Napoleon I and his consort, Josephine. These shoes denote the shimmering elegance of royalty. The upper part of the shoe is made of 100 percent silk satin and features a Swarovski crystal front buckle. Each shoe has a 100 percent cow leather insole with matching kid leather lining. Hangisis have almond-shaped toes, and each shoe has a 105mm spin high heel.
- Swan Pump: Featuring a crystal waterfowl design at its crest, the Swan pump is hard to miss or ignore. This pump is made of 100 percent silk satin and features Swarovski crystal along its upper design. Each shoe also has a 100 percent cow leather insole, along with a 100 percent kid leather inner lining. These salon shoes feature an almond toe and four-inch, 105mm spin heels. The Swan collection is made and Italy and uses standard Italian sizing.
- Campari Pump: These popular shoes feature a front strap and buckle closure. Campari pumps typically come in either patent leather or high-end textile. Some fashion historians classify the Campari as an updated, grown-up version of the classic Mary Jane shoe. The upper shoe is made of either patent leather or 100 percent cotton, while each inner sole is made of 100 percent cow leather. These shoes also have a 100 percent kid leather lining, pointy toes, and 105mm heels.
- Chaos Sandal: Fashion enthusiasts identify this footwear as the signature Manolo Blahnik “strappy sandals.” These lightweight shoes use less material, and the design emphasizes the shape of a woman’s legs. According to the founder, these shoes must be worn with confidence, and each sandal promotes a woman’s ability to walk in heels. The Chaos sandal features a high ankle strap and is made of 100 percent suede. It has a 100 percent cow leather insole, 100 percent kid leather lining, and 105mm. These peep-toe sandals come in a variety of colors to make a fashion statement with any outfit.
Manolo Blahnik Pricing and Extras
Manolo Blahnik’s price point reflects the brand quality and use of high-end materials. Since the founder continues to design each shoe series himself, shoppers should expect to pay for this level of expertise. The following guide can give you a general overview of Manolo Blahnik pricing:
- BB Pump: Available in a variety of colors starting at $595.
- Hangisi Pump: Available in a number of shades for $965.
- Swan Pump: Available in a variety of colors and from a number of fashion outfits. Used Swan pumps start at $495, but limited edition Swan pumps can cost up to $2,500.
- Campari Pump: Available in a variety of summer and winter seasonal styles, starting at $745.
- Chaos Sandal: Available in a number of colors for $725.
While Manolo Blahnik is a luxury brand notorious for its exclusivity, you may find discounted shoes at a few select outlet stores. These stores include:
- Tradesy: This online discount store allows you to purchase pre-owned luxury goods. You can also exchange luxury goods from your own closet.
- Savannah’s: This Sweden-based premium outlet allows you to purchase Manolo Blahniks from its e-commerce website on a first-come, first-served basis.
- eBay: This famous retailer has a rotating selection of pre-owned luxury goods. Individual vendors list their used Manolo Blanik shoes for sale, and you can also sell your own used Manolos if you are ready for a change.
Although women’s shoes represent the basis of Manolo Blahnik core product line, the brand does have a variety of other signature products available. These include a line of attractive men’s shoes, including the Buckjoe, Campcho, and classic Oxford shoes. With these shoes, men can capture a broad collection of looks, ranging from work shoes to weekend wear. Individuals who love handbags can match shoes with a variety of Blahnik bags available. These bags include the Hangi velvet bag, which features a Swarovski front buckle that matches the Hangisi pump. Other bags include the Yusubov clutch, the heart-shaped Okka clutch, and the Kana jewel clutch. In addition, Manolo Blahnik has recently partnered with Rihanna to produce the Savage line of boots and accessories.
Capture classic high-fashion with a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes. With its signature look and important role in popular culture, the Manolo Blahnik has easily achieved cult-brand status. Based on the significance of these accomplishments, the founder recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Footwear News. By exploring the five classic styles of the Manolo Blahnik heel, you can find the color and style that fits your personality and image. The long-lasting quality and premium materials make these shoes a staple in any fashionista’s closet. Whether you are planning a wedding, a night on the town, or simply need to showcase your fashion sense, Manolo Blahniks can help you achieve the right look.
Images from depositphotos.com.