During his 40-plus years in business, designer Manolo Blahnik has been the embodiment of originality. And he has continued to surprise this year through his innovative collaborations with Rihanna and Vetements.
For a look back at some of Blahnik’s greatest creations, FN turned to the brand’s archive managers, Arianna Miolo and Chris Massingham, who shared some historic looks from the collection.
How many items are in the archive?
“The Manolo Blahnik archive contains around 30,000 pairs of shoes. Aside from the shoe styles, it is also made up of Mr. Blahnik’s sketches from each season, watercolor drawings, prototypes and volumes of press cuttings, which chart the biographical, editorial and pictorial coverage of the label since its launch.”
Which shoes are the oldest?
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“The oldest piece in the archive is called Brick and was designed for Kansai Yamamoto in 1971 by Manolo Blahnik, who also personally handcrafted the prototype. Another early piece, also dating back to 1971, is a style designed for Ossie Clark named Ivy — it’s a green sandal with suede straps and leather ties, adorned with red berry appliqués. It was rereleased in 2012 due to its popularity.”
Have any other styles been re-released?
“Yes, the Pimienta, a black leather sandal with red spikes from 1977; as well as the Piaggi from 1976, a black-and-white striped sandal named after fashion editor Anna Piaggi. Another standout piece is the Fiore, a romantic lace-up sandal with floral appliqués, which was originally designed in 2001. It was released again as part of the spring ’16 Manolo Blahnik collection due to high demand.”
What is the most popular item in the archive?
“Curators are often drawn to the 18th-century-style shoes designed in collaboration with costume designer Milena Canonero, for Sophia Coppola’s film ‘Marie Antoinette’ in 2006.”
Is the archive open to the public?
“Mr. Blahnik and a select number of his employees are the only ones who have access to the archive. However, journalist Michael Roberts worked in the archive with the designer during their collaborative projects, such as his recent book for Rizzoli [on sale now at Amazon.com], and the upcoming documentary film about Blahnik’s life, which is also directed by Roberts.”