A history of Manolo Blahnik in 7 shoes

From the BB to the Carolyne

Manolo Blahnik
(Image credit: Manolo Blahnik)

Over the past 50 years, Manolo Blahnik has designed some of most iconic and sought-after shoes of all time, worn by celebrities and royals alike, and seen in hit TV shows and movies.

To celebrate such a rich history, the designer has launched 'Manolo's Silhouettes', an edit of styles which stand out for their enduring timelessness and elegance.

These include the Campari, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and the Carolyne, inspired by American author Carolyne Roehm.

Here's everything you need to know about Manolo Blahnik, in seven shoes, in his own words, including a new addition set to become a new icon.

The Carolyne

Manolo Blahnik

Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy in Carolyne for a reception with her husband John Kennedy Junior, May 1997

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A classically elegant silhouette, there is a common misconception that the Carolyne slingback was inspired by the late Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, but it was in fact an ode to author and artist Carolyne Roehm. It was, however, made famous by Carolyn, who wore it on several occasions. It remains a favourite amongst first ladies and royals.

"It’s a comfortable shoe, a shoe that has no time, it is what I call an eternal shoe. No matter what you do it will always look modern – there is every possible material, every possible colour, every possible heel height," explains Manolo.

The Maysale

Manolo Blahnik

Hailey Bieber in Maysale in New York City, August 2023

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Arguably one of his most famous shoes, the Maysale, a chic mule declined in several heel heights, colours and finishes, features the designer's trademark buckle. It was first designed for Isaac Mizrahi in 1991, and has been worn by real and fictional women of note, from Marge Simpson and Carrie Bradshaw to Madonna and Hailey Bieber.

“I just adore mules. When you walk in mules, you walk a bit differently. It’s very sexy to me; you need balance... and the sound!” says Manolo.

The Mary Jane

Manolo Blahnik

Kate Moss in Mary Jane at the opening of The Manolo Blahnik Exhibition at the Design Museum on the 30th January 2003

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Made famous by Carrie Bradshaw in Sex And The City, the Mary Jane (formerly known as Camparinew), is far from an urban shoe myth. It was introduced in Manolo Blahnik's Autumn/Winter 1994 collection and has been re-imagined in various guises ever since.

Says Manolo: “I had gone through a bit of a baroque period in the early ‘90s and wanted something to counter that, so I went minimalist. It started off with the idea of a children’s Mary Jane, but then I made it
sexy; pointed toe, high heel – and in black patent with grosgrain trim!”

The BB

Manolo Blahnik

Adwoa Aboah in BB at the Met Gala in New York City, May 2018

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're going to invest in one classic shoe that you'll wear forever, make it the BB. The famous pump was inspired by and named after French siren Brigitte Bardot, heavily referencing her style in the 50s and 60s.

“Every season I explore and aim to achieve the perfect shape and cut for my court shoe. I first designed the ‘BB’ in 2008 and it became a classic.
It’s a good shoe for every occasion,” says Manolo.

"Brigitte Bardot has always been a huge source of inspiration for me through her beauty and acting, so elegant, feminine and beautiful,” he adds.

The Susa

Manolo Blahnik

Jennifer Lawrence in Susa in New York City, July 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Susa may not be as well known as its flamboyant heeled sisters, but it's an icon nonetheless, favoured by celebrities on their off-duty days, including Jennifer Lawrence. The flat sandal was first created for Bergdorf Goodman for the Autumn Winter 2010 collection and made its way to Manolo Blahnik’s main collection in 2012. Inspired by the minimalism of the ‘90s, it has since been reimagined in a spectrum of colours and a silhouette with a low heel.

“I’ve been very fortunate, and I don’t know why, but my shoes don’t have a special time. I don’t do it with that in mind but it happens: timelessness. I have been absolutely gifted by that,” explains Manolo.

The Chaos

Manolo Blahnik

Rihanna in Chaos to accept the Fashion Icon Award at the CFDA Fashion Awards, June 2014

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You can often link a shoe trend back to Manolo Blahnik. Before barely-there sandals became a thing, the designer launched the Chaos sandal, in a bit to return to simplicity. Introduced in the Spring Summer 2013 collection, it also had a starring role in the 2016 collaboration with Rihanna. You've no doubt seen it countless times on the red carpet, on the likes of Emily Blunt andPamela Anderson.

“It’s light, it gives a lot of leg, and it’s barely there! I’ve always had a fascination with lightness, both in a structural and tactile sense,” says Manolo.

The Sene

New for Spring Summer 2024, the Sene is an icon in the making. Manolo Balhnik returns to his baroque roots with this black satin boot with a bright pink sculptural heel and pom poms - a nod to the accoutrements of the ‘Belle Epoque’, an era of beautiful clothes and sumptuous interiors.

Manolo told us: "I wanted to create a shoe using the most interesting materials and techniques, SENE is inspired by Belle Epoque during the era of the French Third Republic. This is an era that I adore and one that I continually find inspiration from... the silhouettes...the colours, the opulence... Divine! The pink crochet tassels are my favourite part, they remind me of the decadent clothing and interiors of the period."

Penny Goldstone

Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.

Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).

Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at MoneySavingExpert.com, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.

However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.

Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.