On Tuesday, Nov. 29, Footwear News will host its 2016 Achievement Awards in New York, honoring the best and brightest in the industry, including Collaboration of the Year Award Winner Vetements x Manolo Blahnik. Read on to learn more.
The union of cult label Vetements and design legend Manolo Blahnik is, on the surface, a marriage of opposites. However, their spring ’17 collaboration, which astonished fashion audiences during Haute Couture in Paris, has proven beyond a doubt that opposites do indeed attract.
For founder Demna Gvasalia and the Vetements team, the reasons to work together were obvious. “Manolo Blahnik is one of the world’s most famous shoe designers,” he stated. “His shoes can be found all over the world and are a staple piece for film stars, editors and women who trust the perfect quality of the brand.” For Blahnik, however, the decision was based more on instinct. “I didn’t know much about them,” admitted the designer. “But I didn’t think too much. I always feel very curious to see how these youngsters are doing. So they came along, I liked them very much and I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ So we did. Everything I do is instant.”
The starting point for their collection was Blahnik’s iconic Hangisi silhouette: the jewel-colored satin pump with that signature, crystal-encrusted buckle. But the Vetements team came with an unexpected request. “They told me they would like to destroy it,” Blahnik said with a laugh, “and they destroyed the beautiful silk satin with brutality.”
The designer added that he was drawn to the irreverence of the approach: “I thought, ‘This is fun, mixing a chic thing with a trashy thing.’ ” And the project quickly mushroomed into six styles: a slingback (featuring a cutout at the rear), a pump, an ankle-strap style, a slashed mid-calf bootie, a thigh-high boot and a waist-high sherman-esque wader secured with a belt.
Both the thigh-highs and the pumps also came emblazoned with Blahnik’s signature. Done in bleach, it presented a humorous twist on the notion of a “signature design.”
Aside from crafting innovative product, the collaboration also cemented its success through a savvy retail and marketing strategy. The collection was presented at Vetements’ guerilla-style show in French department store Galeries Lafayette during Paris Haute Couture Week and will be sold as an online exclusive with Net-a-Porter and in the U.S. by Saks Fifth Avenue.
“I came up in the decade that was all about what we called ‘happenings,’ ” said Blahnik, referencing the staging. “I like that kind of mad attitude.”
Vetements’ retail partners also agree. Sarah Rutson, VP of global buying at Net-a-Porter, said, “We know that our customer will love not only the classic aesthetic that Manolo Blahnik is so recognized for, but the appeal and edge that Vetements brings with every reworked design.”
Tracy Margolies, chief merchant at Saks Fifth Avenue, added, “Demna Gvasalia is a name synonymous with evocative and thought-provoking fashion. And Blahnik’s staple styles, now fused with Gvasalia’s deconstructed signature style, have become sought-after unconventional silhouettes.”