For five decades, Manolo Blahnik has created some of the world’s most recognizable and sought-after shoes, from the iconic Hangisi pump immortalized by “Sex & the City” lead Carrie Bradshaw to the Brigitte Bardot-inspired BB style.
As it prepares to debut its latest collection, CEO Kristina Blahnik opened up about the brand’s evolution and reflected on its storied past during a virtual event with Neiman Marcus yesterday. From the English countryside, Blahnik presented the spring ’21 line — or, as she calls it, her “little candy store” — as well as shared her first shoe memory and the “most amusing” thing about Manolo himself.
On what to expect in Manolo Blahnik’s spring ’21 line: “Color, color, color and comfort, comfort, comfort. What’s so brilliant about the Neiman Marcus edit is that you can fall out of bed into Manolos, you can brush your teeth in Manolos, you can go to work, you can go to tea, you can go to dinner and you can party and fall into bed in your Oscar de la Renta ball gown in them. But along the entire journey, you can be looking at them, and that pop of color is going to make you smile, especially for the spring ’21 season. We’ve got the pops of fuchsia pink — and not just in the shoe itself. The ‘candy store’ sparkles as well. I think [the Verda Embellished-Buckle Mule Sandals] is my favorite.”
On her first shoe memory: “I was about 8 or 9 years old. In our little store in Chelsea, there was a red patent, 1.5-millimeter heeled pump. I was in a school uniform with green wool tights and a gray tweed pleated skirt and a green wool cardigan. Jamie [Prieto], who is still with us and is now a house historian, was like, ‘Put these shoes on and go dancing,’ because it was my playground. The shop was my playground, and the shoes were my siblings. I grew up in a shoe box. So I was wearing these shoes in this ridiculous school outfit, and they made me dance to ‘Thriller.’ You can just imagine the scene of this little 8-or 9-year-old girl dancing ‘Thriller’ in these heels, and I will never forget those shoes. I’m devastated that I never kept them as a memory, because I think your first Manolos, even if you’re 8 years old, are the ones that stick with you.”
On her career path: “I’m following in the footsteps of a super[woman], my mother, who was the CEO prior to me. [The brand has] always been headed up by a woman [on the business side], so I’ve got big shoes to fill. Before that, my family [told me to] ‘do your journey’ so that you’re coming in as an independent with your own opinions. I was an architect in my previous life. I was in it for 17 years before I joined the family business. I was very much coming from a different perspective. But, still, the Blahnik blood was coursing through my veins. Eventually, the calling came, and I joined the business in my mid-30s. It’s my legacy. It’s my family’s legacy. And it’s my purpose.”
On the evolution of the brand: “The evolution has been very organic. There hasn’t been a strategy of being the biggest and the most profitable in the world. In fact, [it’s] quite the opposite; the journey has always been about creating the most beautiful and most comfortable, the best-made and the most, in some ways, modest objects and sculptures. My family has been able to [do that], and now I’m kind of taking on the baton … In the last few years, I’ve had the privilege to be able to steer that into the digital realm, which was a big bump for a little family business that is about artisans and shoemaking. But, thank goodness, because we wouldn’t be able to be here if it weren’t for the digital world. It’s fantastic. I’m building not only little shoes with my uncle — so still keeping my architect hat on there — but also building the Blahnik legacy that will transcend my lifetime and be there for generations to come.”
On Manolo Blahnik himself: “He is the biggest of big characters, which is why meeting him is just so overwhelming, because he just radiates joy and excitement and passion. One of the things that I always find the most amusing, but also the most endearing, is that he talks to the shoes that he’s creating and [the ones] he’s created all the time — like they’re his children. He’s breathing life into them in the factories … That’s what’s so magical. We don’t create anything that is commercially driven. He’s breathing in his spirit, and all of us try to add our spirits to the shoes. Even though it’s a shoe, it still has this beautiful, positive energy around it.”