Manolo Blahnik and Graces Wales Bonner teamed up on fall ’17 men’s shoes that debuted at Wales Bonner’s runway show during London Fashion Week.
Here, the designers reflect on the steps that led to their collaboration.
Step 1: Finding Common Ground
The partnership evolved out of mutual respect and a desire to work with each other. “Grace has a special kind of magic to make men’s clothes desirable,” said Blahnik. “She searches into her roots for inspiration the same way I do. Her first collection blew me away.” Meanwhile, Wales Bonner was specifically attracted to Blahnik’s menswear designs. “I don’t think anyone is making men’s shoes like he is,” she said.
Step 2: Fusing Creative Minds
Wales Bonner started her search for inspiration with a look back in time. “The collection was inspired by street preachers and Renaissance street characters, so it was about merging historic references with something more contemporary,” Wales Bonner said. “That idea was coupled with my interest in African sandals, exotic skins and how shoes can be the most distinctive element about someone’s look.”
Step 3: Translating Ideas
“I showed Mr. Blahnik my inspiration and was slightly unsure if he would get it, but he was excited about the idea,” said Wales Bonner. Blahnik shared that the duo actually built the ready-to-wear collection around the footwear styles. “The shoes were the first stage, so it was about creating the synergy that could fl ow through the entire collection,” he said. “We worked very closely on the development. It took months — shoes cannot be done in seconds.”
Step 4: Learning Curves
The designers said they pushed each other to try new things during the process. “It was an exciting challenge for me to work with such a young designer,” said Blahnik. “The silhouette had a squarer toe than I have ever worked with, and the heel was more elevated than my usual men’s line.” Wales Bonner said she especially learned a lot about the footwear realm. “I have worked with shoes before,” she said, “but working with Manolo, I was able to push the design much further.”
Step 5: Heading to Market
The partnership resulted in two styles, including patchwork ankle boots and cut-out loafers. They will retail from $750 to $1,055 and be available on Wales Bonner’s e-commerce site in June. “The reaction to the shoes has been incredible,” she said.