In tune with its luxury peers, Manolo Blahnik is taking control of production, acquiring a top Italian women’s shoe manufacturer, Calzaturificio Re Marcello S.r.l.
Founded in 1938 by the Re family, Calzaturificio Re Marcello has a single factory, in Vigevano, Italy, not far from Milan. It has produced women’s shoes for the Manolo Blahnik brand since 1990.
Re Marcello’s facility employs 77 craftsmen who will now become part of Blahnik’s company, reinforcing the brand’s efforts to develop artisanal talent and preserve shoemaking skills for future generations, Manolo Blahnik said.
As part of the acquisition, the current management team of Bruno Re and Giuse Galazzi will stay on for the foreseeable future, working alongside the Manolo Blahnik management team.
“I have known the Re family for nearly three decades and have been a longstanding admirer of their business,” said the designer. “I have enjoyed a close working relationship with them and all the skilled artisans in the workshop, as their ability to bring my designs to life turns fantasy into reality. I am enormously excited that this wonderful partnership can flourish and look forward to welcoming the family and employees into our company.”
Re, chairman of Calzaturificio Re Marcello, said: “Ours is a family business, carefully built over many years, using the finest materials, techniques and artisanal skills.”
He noted the London brand’s “long-term confidence in our products” and said the Blahnik family “shared our values for quality and tradition. Together we can create a lasting legacy. It is our deep pleasure to be sealing our bond.”
Kristina Blahnik, chief executive officer, said Re Marcello will be the company’s first wholly owned atelier and manufacturing facility “creating greater creative and operational flexibility for the future of our business.”
The Italian factory was known as Invitta when it was founded in 1938 and specialized in making children’s shoes. It expanded into high-end women’s shoes after World War II and was renamed Re Marcello in the Sixties.
In the late eighties, Re Marcello shifted the company’s strategy from wholesale to producing footwear for international fashion and luxury brands. It began working with Manolo Blahnik in 1990.
All the shoes Blahnik develops are based on his sketches, which are then translated into prototypes at the factories and under the designer’s eye.
The year 2019 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for the Manolo Blahnik brand: In April, Manolo Blahnik International Ltd confirmed it was parting ways with its longtime U.S. licensee George Malkemus, president of Manolo Blahnik USA, and Anthony Yurgaitis, vice president of the company.
The two parties said they chose not to renew their license.
Following that announcement, Manolo Blahnik said it was planning “significant strategic investment” in its North American operations as it prepares to take control of business in the region after 37 years of doing business there.
It will take the reigns of the North American business on Jan. 1, 2020. The brand has 311 points of sale in 35 countries with 20 standalone stores, including the recently opened one in Palais-Royal, Paris, a relaunched e-commerce platform and five social media accounts.
Last month, the Wallace Collection in London opened the exhibition “An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection.” The exhibition, which runs until Sept. 1, features a personally selected edit of shoe designs from Blahnik’s private archives. These are set among the works and meant to be in a dialogue with them.
Manolo Blahnik is the latest luxury brand to acquire production facilities.
In June, Hermès International confirmed it would continue to expand production of its gloves and small leather goods in France, with plans to move its Ganterie Maroquinerie de Saint-Junien factory by 2022 to a 54,000-square-foot site close to its existing factory. The new site will be more than triple the size of the current facility.
It will also double the workforce employed at the facility from 130 to 260 in the same time frame. Hermès has also opened a new training workshop for its leather artisans near Lyon, France, and two new factories, in the Gironde and Seine-et-Marne regions, are also in the works, with plans for each to employ 250 artisans.
In 2017, Richemont purchased Serapian, the high-end Italian leather goods brand, and has been using its factories to scale up production and develop expertise across the group.
In 2018, Burberry purchased its longtime Italian leather goods manufacturer in a bid to exert more control over its accessories offer and work closer with the artisans making its bags and leather accessories.
Earlier that year, Gucci unveiled a Tuscan factory called ArtLab, its biggest-ever industrial investment. It is dedicated to leather goods and shoes, which account for 70 percent of the brand’s sales. CEO Marco Bizzarri described the factory as unrivaled in the world.
This story was reported by WWD and originally appeared on WWD.com.