From the red-carpet to the runway, Manolo Blahnik shoes have become a cultural icon. They’ve been worn by everyone from Anna Wintour to Carrie Bradshaw and even been mentioned in a Jay-Z and Beyonce song. As the shoe guru celebrates his 40-year anniversary, the 70-year-old fashion designer reflects on his illustrious career… that came about by chance.
“It sounds ridiculous, but I never really had much thought about what I was going to do,” Blahnik told the New York Post. At the time, 28-year-old Blahnik was considering a career in set design, but all that changed after meeting US Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. After showing his portfolio of fashions and set designs to Vreeland, she told him that he should design only footwear.
He listened. In 1972, British designer Ossie Clark hired Blahnik to create footwear for his runway show, and only one year later, he opened his own shop in London’s Chelsea neighborhood. “When I started, people didn’t think about making money,” he explained. “It was an innocent era. You did things because you loved what you were doing.”
Forty years later, the designer still loves his craft and has no plans to retire. “When I see [a shoe] done I say, ‘Oh, it’s beautiful!’ Or sometimes I say, ‘Oh my God! What a disaster!'”