Manolo Blahnik talks personal style

Designer of iconic shoes, Manolo Blahnik has 200 sales points worldwide, including a pop-up store in Liberty of London.

Manolo Blahnik.
Manolo Blahnik. | Image: Richard Grassie

My personal style signifier is my cuff links – 19th-century Sicilian coral and gold from the Pennisi boutique in Milan. I’ve worn them nearly every day for the past 25 years. 29 Via Manzoni, Milan 20121 (+3902-862 232;

The last thing I bought and loved was a selection of silk bow ties from Charvet, one of those wonderfully old-fashioned places of which there are now so few. I almost always wear a bow tie. These are Scottish plaid with spots and bright colours. 28 Place Vendôme, Paris 75001 (+331-4260 3070;

Bread from Le Pain Quotidien.
Bread from Le Pain Quotidien.

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a collection of Irving Penn’s photographs. The rigorous perfection in each image is unique. I would love to have the shots of Sophia Loren or model Penelope Tree.

A recent “find” is Potterton Books. It has the best collection of picture books. When I came across it a few months ago, I went slightly mad with excitement. The lady who runs it is lovely too. 93 Lower Sloane Street, London SW1 (020-7730 4235;


The grooming staple I’m never without is Roger & Gallet hair gel. I apply it every morning, ritually, after my shower. I would pull my hair out if it hung over my forehead!

The book on my bedside table is L’Education Sentimentale by Gustave Flaubert. I’ve read it so many times, but I love the descriptions of the characters and events – they are so beautiful. I have trouble sleeping, so I read a lot. Also, I’ve recently been looking over my new book of drawings with Thames & Hudson. It took a long time to put together, but I have to say I’m happy with the outcome.

Knize Ten is available at Les Senteurs in London, £104 (125ml edt).
Knize Ten is available at Les Senteurs in London, £104 (125ml edt).

In my fridge you’ll always find a few pints of semi-skimmed milk (I drink lots and have a glass or two before going to bed), marmalade, butter, vegetables and fruit. In the morning I have two slices of brown bread from Le Pain Quotidien with butter and marmalade. I like having a set routine.

The last music downloaded onto my iPod was some opera by Cecilia Bartoli. I love medieval songs. I also love Arabic music, especially Natacha Atlas.

The great palace at Kuskovo Estate in Moscow.
The great palace at Kuskovo Estate in Moscow. | Image:

The best gift I’ve given recently was a wedding present for friends; I painted a picture of a polka-dot shoe for the couple.

And the best one I’ve received recently was a bottle of Viennese Knize Ten cologne. It has a very discreet and clean scent, and I couldn’t find it anywhere other than New York. But I recently came across it in Mazzolari in Milan. I told the kind shopkeepers how happy I was to have found it and they gave it to me for free. I was really touched. Mazzolari, Galleria San Babila 4/D, Milano 20122 (+3902-7600 0063;

Diaspora by Natacha Atlas.
Diaspora by Natacha Atlas.

The site that inspires me is the Kuskovo Estate in Moscow, today home to the Russian State Museum of Ceramics. I’ve loved neoclassicism ever since I learnt about it at school – people thought it was strange how enamoured I was of it. The estate was badly damaged during the French invasion in 1812, but the impressive oak panelling was left intact. 2 Ulitsa Yunosti, Moscow 111402 (+7495-375 3131;

An indulgence I’d never forego used to be chocolate. I was heavily into all kinds – Moroccan, Swiss, Cadbury – everything, really. But it’s not good for the liver, so I’ve had to cut down. The other day, though, I went to Fortnum & Mason for tea and had a delicious piece of chocolate cake; you have to occasionally. 181 Piccadilly, London W1 (020-7734 8040;


The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Francisco de Zurbarán. I love each one of his pieces but, sadly, I could never afford any. My favourite painting is Saint Francis in Meditation. I go to see it at The National Gallery; it inspires me every time. Trafalgar Square, London WC2 (020-7747 2885;

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would want to be a film historian, or restore and repair old and silent films.

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