Manolo Blahnik at the opening of his shop at Mayfair's Burlington Arcade.
Manolo Blahnik at the opening of his shop at Mayfair's Burlington Arcade.

Manolo Blahnik reveals his fantasy of designing for Helen of Troy as he opens his second London shop in 44 years

More than four decades after opening his first shop in Chelsea, the shoe master opens the doors of his second boutique at the Burlington Arcade - he tells us what's inspiring him right now

Linda Sharkey
Thursday 04 February 2016 10:30

"I don’t want glasses, they’re full of bacteria and things. A bottle you know it hasn’t been touched by human hands. Because humans can be very filthy, you know," Manolo Blahnik welcomes me to his new London shop while drinking from a bottle of water, sporting a rather colourful lilac suit teamed with red slippers, his trademark round frames and warm smile.

He’s gracious, he’s funny, he’s a perfectionist, he’s an art and history lover and he “adores” many things.

Born in the Canary Islands to a Czech father and a Spanish mother, Blahnik opened his first shop in Chelsea in 1973 after designing shoes for the likes of Ossie Clark and Zandra Rhodes in the seventies. His shoes are renowned round the world, and this week he comes to central London to open his second shop in the capital at Mayfair’s iconic Burlington Arcade.

"It’s exciting, absolutely marvellous… It has a wonderful charm," he says.

Manolo Blahnik's opens second London shop at Mayfair's Burlington Arcade

He admits that Burlington Arcade wasn’t something he always had in mind, but that if he was to open a second shop in London, it had to be somewhere he was "mad about" and "this is the place".

"Here is a lot of my views and pages of books that I love. Burlington Arcade was always mentioned in the books from, I don’t know, the 19th Century…"

Blahnik’s niece, Kristina, who oversees the business for her uncle tells me pwith pride: “I’ve heard him saying for the last 20 years 'I wish I could have a store in the West End' and here we are, finally."

She then explains how it compares to the Chelsea shop: "First, this is central London. Our shop on Church Street is so hidden away, it's a little pilgrimage." But it is really where all the heritage began. When Carrie Bradshaw appeared in Sex and The City holding a Manolo shopping bag, which reads 'New York' and 'London', this was the one shop in the UK it made reference to. "It was his home, his living room. It's pretty much where I grew up, where my mum worked on the shop floor well into the nineties. That's our home."

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City

The new two-floor boutique is beautiful, clean decor, white walls and, inspired by Blahnik’s home, it's adorned with Georgian columns. “In the corridor in his house in Bath he has his 'relief column' and he said 'I want this column, that’s it'," says Kristina. "This shop is just quiet and gentle, let the shoes do the talking."

Manolo Blahnik with his niece Kristina (left) and sister Evangeline (right)

And they do indeed talk for themselves. On entering the store you're instantly hypnotised by beautiful, timeless, detailed heels, elegant pointed flats, bold colours, polka-dot prints and of course, the iconic Hangisi stilettos, which Manolo admits to be "a bit OD" on them. "It’s great because they’re recognisable, but I'm copied to death in China. It's really offensive."

Manolo Blahnik's iconic Hanigisi satin pumps

The iconic shoe style, made famous in the HBO series by Carrie, has a small space in the new boutique; it's his latest collection into spring/summer, which catches your eyes.

"Oh my God. I have so many rules and things," says Manolo about how he gets on designing his shoes. "I have thousands and thousands of moments that I think about something that I just immediately do it, but lately I've revamped all my memories of my favourite books…I don't know why because I always do that mentally, but this time I read them again. Since Christmas I’ve been reading all things in French… and even end up buying Egyptian stuff."

So, as he goes through the best reads of his personal library, he reveals which period of time he'd like to live in to design shoes. "Without the minginess and the dirt, I'd loved to be in the Hellenistic times."

There, he would design shoes for Helen of Troy. "It would have been divine, because imagine how beautiful she was and the reputation she had. It would have been so wonderful."

Helen of Troy

Talking about designers that would work in perfect harmony with his shoes he admits to have "so many masters" on his list. "Nowadays I have people like Galliano and young Scottish designer Thomas Tait, who I love, I adore his looks. I love his stuff tremendously."

Manolo Blahnik’s Burlington Arcade shop opens 4th February 2016.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in