LONDON — Midway through a five-year investment plan, Manolo Blahnik has been moving at lightning speed, taking control of production and its U.S. business, and opening stores in key geographies as it prepares to pen a new chapter.
On Wednesday, the company revealed a move to Madison Avenue, into a double-fronted store that will be designed by architect David Thomas of David Thomas Design, in collaboration with Manolo Blahnik and Kristina Blahnik. Thomas designed the Manolo boutique at the Palais Royal in Paris, which opened in June.
The store, at 717 Madison Avenue, will open in the spring and offer the women’s and men’s collections under one roof. It will replace the brand’s smaller unit at 31 West 54th Street, which recently shut and only offered women’s shoes.
The move to Madison follows the termination, earlier this year, of a longtime deal with Manolo Blahnik’s U.S. partners. As reported, Manolo Blahnik will bring its North American business in house as of Jan. 1, 2020.
Kristina Blahnik, group chief executive, said the new flagship on Madison Avenue “is the latest in a series of key investments that we are making to ensure that we fulfill the potential of the Manolo Blahnik brand in North America. Our U.S. customer is among the most discerning and knowledgeable in the world. This new store will allow us the opportunity to uphold our promise to those customers as we strive to exceed their expectations in quality, creativity and service.”
Company founder Manolo Blahnik said New York was where his journey began.
“Without guidance from the legendary Diana Vreeland, we wouldn’t be where we are today. New York has always evoked a great sense of excitement for me, a city of endless possibilities. So it is an honor for me to open on Madison Avenue, an exquisite location, which I remember fondly from our formative years.”
Earlier this year, the company named Andrew Wright as president of Manolo Blahnik Americas, alongside a team of luxury professionals.
In April, the company vowed to put “significant strategic investment” behind its North American operations as it prepares to take control of business in the region after 37 years.
At the time, Kristina Blahnik said she was looking forward to what lies ahead. “These are very exciting times for Manolo Blahnik. The U.S. and Canada are a core part of our business, which we are fully committed to.”
Change is happening far beyond North America, too. Earlier this year, the company bought its footwear factory and atelier near Pavia, Italy, and has been opening a string of stores across the globe.
Manolo Blahnik is completing the post-acquisition integration of its Italian shoe factory, Calzaturificio Re Marcello, “which guarantees access to a key component of our high-quality supply chain,” according to Kristina Blahnik.
Store openings this year include the Palais-Royal, which opened during the Paris Couture shows, and a unit at Victoria Dockside in Hong Kong, which began trading in September. A further retail space at the department store Daimaru Shinsaibashi in Osaka also opened.
Not all of the brand’s energies have been directed toward sales and investment: In June, The Wallace Collection in London unveiled a one-off show, An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection.
It featured a personally selected edit of shoe designs from Blahnik’s private archives set among the lavish 18th-century and 19th-century paintings, sculptures and objects of the collection. The popular show was meant to be a “conversation” between Blahnik’s footwear and the works of art, which have long been inspirational for the designer.
Set to close on Sept. 1, was extended until Oct. 27.
Last month, Xavier Bray, director of The Wallace Collection, accepted a creative collaboration award for the Manolo Blahnik x The Wallace Collection exhibition at the annual Walpole luxury awards in London.
He took to the podium with a whimsical speech.
“We miss the shoes — there is a real sense of emptiness in the galleries now,” said Bray, adding that it was a quite an education gazing at the galleries’ paintings alongside the aesthete and art lover Blahnik. “I would look at the faces — and he would go straight for the shoes,” he said.