How Sex and the City Made Manolo Blahnik Famous

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For anyone who has ever watched Sex & the City, it’s hard to deny that the show was, at times, just as much about style—and one brand of shoe in particular—as love, sex or friendship. Perhaps the most enduring love of all wasn’t an infamous boyfriend, but the artful creations of Manolo Blahnik. After all, Carrie dropped ,000 on his heels, clung onto them while being held at gunpoint, and philosophized on their non-monetary value time and again, speaking to the ways in which they symbolized the economic and social freedom of the post-’90s, single female Manhattanite. Woman en-mass, for the first time in history, she argued, had the money, power, and independence, to live with the same liberty as men.

There is one individual who never anticipated the attention, nor the fame that followed. Manolo Blahnik, who turns 76 years old today, took the world’s gaze at total surprise.

The Spanish designer launched his line in the 1971. He was studying law at the University of Geneva, realized it was never in his heart, and tried literature with hopes that it would lead to greater passion. He started drawing fashion illustrations and, on a trip to New York to visit his friend Paloma Picasso, was introduced to Diana Vreeland so that she could see his images. Vreeland knew where Blahnik should be immediately, telling him, “Get into shoes,” and the designer began to teach himself the basics of heel construction soon after.

By the time Sex & the City came along, Blahnik has mastered the art and had been embraced by Bianca Jagger, Tina Chow, Grace Coddington, and Princess Diana, who famously wore his heels with the “revenge dress.” But this success couldn’t prepare him for the rush of buyers that flooded his stores when Carrie began to sing his praises. By the year 2000, 30,000 Manolos were being sold a year at Neiman Marcus alone. His creations—which have remained privately owned and run by his family—became household names. “I do not know what jealousy or envy are,” said the designer once in reflection. “When the business took off in the ’90s, I knew that we were doing something popular but I didn’t think about being famous. It never occurred to me that something like that could happen.”

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