Since he first opened his boutique on Old Church Street, London in 1971, Manolo Blahnik has been the shoe designer to the stars and more. This year, to celebrate his 50th year in the business, the brand has launched The Manolo Blahnik Archives:
A New Way of Walking, a virtual showcase
In one memorable episode of Sex And The City, lead character Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) said to a robber: “You can take my Fendi baguette, you can take my ring and my
watch, but please don’t take my Manolo Blahniks.” And just like that, this Spanish shoe designer became the go-to person for women to get their shoe fix.
This year, the very respected Blahnik will be celebrating 50 years in the busi- ness and has along the way become the world’s most influential footwear de- signer. Throughout the years Blahnik’s achievements have been recognised by the Couture Council of America and the independent luxury body Walpole, which awarded Manolo Blahnik with the ‘Luxury Legend’ award. Most recently, Blahnik was awarded an Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the Brit- ish Empire (CBE) by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.
To commemorate his amazing journey, The Manolo Blahnik Archives: A New Way of Walking was launched. This is a virtual world themed across five ‘rooms’, celebrating past and present pivotal moments, featuring his ability to grow and evolve with the brand in the future. The interactive exhibition reveals for the first time, the breadth of the house’s archives highlighting the constant innovation within.
Concentrated on the extraordinary collection of Manolo’s drawings, A New Way of Walking reveals Blahnik’s unique artistic flair, the intricacy invested in each design, his humour, and the remarkable scope of his cultural references.
The project has been a long-term ambition of company CEO Kristina Blahnik (Manolo’s niece), while the archival content and touchpoints have been compiled by renowned industry expert Judith Clark in conjunction with Blahnik himself and the brand’s in-house archive team. In the making for over 18 months, Rõnin — an independent digital design studio based in Amsterdam — have led the build of the experience from its conception.
A New Way of Walking showcases Blahnik’s unique artistic flair, the intricacy invested in each design, his humour and the remarkable scope of his cultural references.
Take a walk in the five rooms
The Palette Room
Upon entering the virtual space in The Palette Room, 80 sketches are arranged in a spectrum of colour, some containing discovery touchpoints with previously untold backstories. This room celebrates Blahnik’s endless love and use of colour. “I have approached colour in a bold way, from all angles and variations. I have played with it, always searching for the poetry of an impossible colour,” says the designer.
The ‘70s Room
Through film clips, newspaper cuttings, unseen portraits and personal photographs, this room tells a story of the many ‘firsts’ of the brand. Archival sketches showcase Blahnik’s design journey and illustrate how his designs have developed over the past 50 years — there is the Orientallia Babouche from 1978 showcasing the early influence of Morocco, the Marlene pump from 1979 featuring a primary example of the buckle for which the house has become renowned and the storied Warsuma shoe created for Ossie Clark. Also housed in the archive is a dress from the same Ossie Clark, from the 1971 ‘Black Magic’ runway show for which Blahnik designed his first collection. Blahnik created thick rubber heels and forgot to put steel support rods inside, leaving the shoes structurally unsound and models with an unusual, unbalanced walk. However, the press loved them and the British photographer, Cecil Beaton coined it “A new way of walking”. Now 50 years later, this bittersweet accident is the title of this event.
Throughout his career, there have been some exceptional friendships that have guided and influenced Manolo’s work. Featured friends include Diana Vreeland, the former editor-in-chief of American Vogue, who was a mentor to Blahnik in the early days and encouraged his foray into footwear. Anna Piaggi, the Italian writer, and fashion icon for whom Blahnik designed and dedicated styles including MENCHI and PIAGGI.
The Gold Room
A celebration of opulence and excess, highlighting some of the most fantastical and exuberant designs, exceptional materials, and extraordinary craftsmanship from the past five decades and Manolo’s ongoing influence of gold. Alongside sketches and materials is the new 50th-anniversary collection — a capsule of gold styles that are lavish, baroque and quintessentially ‘Manolo’ also available to shop within the experience.
This ‘room’ was created to capture a snapshot of the entire house in its 50th year and to appreciate the individuals who have worked alongside Manolo and the Blahnik family to build a brand that today is globally recognised as a leader in luxury whilst remaining a family run business. In this room, portraits of each team member, accompanied by personal quotes and values are compiled to form a portrait of Blahnik, originally shot by celebrated British photographer Misan Harriman.