We’ve been given the chance to see the exhibition Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes which is taking place in Milan at the Palazzo Morando fashion museum until the 9th April 2017. Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes is a retrospective spanning 45 years of work by one of the most influential figures in footwear: his shoes have spellbound an international set of adoring and loyal devotees across the globe.
In this exhibition the artist with the curator Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz have selected 212 shoes and 80 drawings capturing the essence of his passions and inspirations: architecture, art, botany, literature, cinema, the Eighteenth Century, Italy, Russia, Spain and many other cultural influences that fascinate him.
For this reason when we walk along the six thematic paths created by the curator we can find in his shoes a lot of cross references to his idols or muses from the past, including painters, writers, film directors but also actresses, business woman and much more. Anna Piaggi, the legendary fashion editor of Italian Vogue, the actress Brigitte Bardot, King Alexander the Great, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa are only some names of people and icons most influential to Blahnik to whom he dedicated one or more models of his shoes.
Furthermore, we find shoes inspired by cultures and countries such as by Spain, Italy (for examples magnificent sandals full of real corals which remind Lampedusa island, that we cannot show here), Africa, Russia, England and Japan. In addition, to those specific models connect with Manolo’s passion for movies and his tributes to Luchino Visconti, Kubrick, Marlene Dietrich, Luise Brooks and Greta Garbo.
Some of his shoes are inspired by Pablo Picasso, whose colorful canvas are re-interpreted by his daughter Paloma who became friend with Manolo in the sixties. Some more shoes are inspired by Spanish artist Mirò and some seem to recall some drawings of Henry Matisse.
Manolo Blahnik as a brand
What about Manolo Blahnik as a company, though? Currently the brand holds 290 points of sale in 33 countries worldwide and 12 freestanding stores including London, New York, Dubai, Hong Kong, Madrid and Moscow. There is also a newly launched E-commerce platform created in partnership with FarFetch to build the first online mono-brand market place. The company is also going under a transformation in Asia where it has partnered with the Bluebell Group to expand in select territories starting with Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.
In conclusion, we believe that investing on culture and promoting the brand through a retrospective is a meaningful way to create awareness, and helps nurturing the iconic original, creative and timeless positioning of the brand. Milan, where Manolo also has his factories, is one of the most important cities for fashion and for made in Italy. The brand connected its exclusivity with mainstream cities and locations: next destination will be Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg; then Museum Kampa in Prague, where the artist was born; finally will take place at Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas of Madrid, and in 2018 will end at Bata Shoe Museum of Toronto, in Canada, ensuring a wide coverage of the initiative. And finally, brand awareness.