FN CEO Summit: Manolo Blahnik CEO Kristina Blahnik on the Brand’s New NYC Flagship, Running a Family Business & an Upcoming 50th Anniversary

As New York continues its reopening, a long-awaited, highly anticipated shop has just thrown open its doors: Manolo Blahnik’s new New York City flagship.

“It really has been a labor of love and one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my career as the Manolo Blahnik CEO, and for my family,” said Kristina Blahnik, who spoke with FN executive editor Katie Abel at the FN CEO Summit on Wednesday.

After closing the brand’s West 54th Street location in midtown Manhattan in 2019, Manolo Blahnik is officially reopened on the Upper East Side’s Madison Avenue, in a 1920s two-story space that the namesake designer and his niece reimagined alongside architect David Thomas. The shop holds the brand’s women’s and men’s collections side by side — a new retail approach in the U.S. (though the legendary designer did start his career in men’s footwear).

Manolo Blahnik, Madison Avenue, Store
Inside Manolo Blahnik’s new Madison Avenue store.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Manolo Blahnik

“Manolo’s very first store [in NYC] in the late ’70s was on Madison Avenue,” Blahnik said of the homecoming to the uptown shopping destination. “‘It’s a magnificent space, a true reflection of Manolo and the passions he has, from Hollywood Regency to Georgian architecture. For him, it’s a very emotional moment. He keeps saying to me, ‘I can’t believe I’m opening my store via Zoom.'”

The flagship is actually the second New York retail location that the brand has opened this year — the first was a pop-up in East Hampton, which Blahnik called a “candy store by the beach.” Both have opened just in time for the brand’s 50th anniversary this year. “It’s an opportunity to pay homage to a legacy that has been built by my uncle and my mother,” said the CEO of the milestone. “It’s a moment in time, not a retrospective, but it’s our golden anniversary and we are celebrating that to move into the next 50 years.”

manolo blahnik, kristina blahnik, fn ceo summit, fn, footwear news
FN’s Katie Abel with Manolo Blahnik CEO Kristina Blahnik at the FN CEO Summit.

In the discussion, Blahnik also revealed how working within a family-owned business helped her to create a sense of empathy as a leader, especially through the pandemic.

“We are a small family, but it’s actually broader than the genetic word of family,” she said. “Family is a whole community, everyone works within the business, everyone who supports the business inside and out, and that has been everything that defines us. The values of family and kindness and empathy and respect have come to the forefront of everything we have done in the past 15 months through this crisis.”

“It really comes down to the values and what we stand for beyond just a beautiful object and beautiful designs,” Blahnik continued. “It’s about community, it’s about wellbeing, it’s about safety, it’s about mental health.”

Summit sponsors include presenting sponsor PayPal and event sponsors Aetrex, Caleres, FDRA, K-Swiss, Riskified, SkyPad, Sperry, Two Ten and Zappos.

Manolo Blahnik, Madison Avenue, exterior
Manolo Blahnik has made a return to Madison Avenue.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Manolo Blahnik
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