MANOLO’S WORLD: Manolo Blahnik’s exuberant world and his craft of shoemaking are to be celebrated with the launch of a touring artistic residency this month.
“Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes” will take an intimate look back at the celebrated footwear designer’s 45-year-old career, highlighting special items from the archives, original sketches and the varied sources of inspiration informing each piece, from botany, literature and cinema to the 18th century and the charm of the Russian or Spanish cultures.
With cultural exchange at the heart of the project, the residency will launch at Milan’s Palazzo Morando fashion museum on Jan. 26 and will move to locations around the world, chosen for the meaning they carry in Blahnik’s work and life. These include the State Museum Hermitage in St. Petersburg Russia, where the designer often looks for inspiration; the Museum Kampa in Prague, Czech Republic, where the paternal home of the Blahnik family is located and the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas in Madrid, paying homage to the designer’s Spanish roots.
In 2018, the touring residency will also make a stop at the BATA shoe museum in Toronto, Canada.
Curator Dr. Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz handpicked 212 styles to be on display, from over 30,000 pieces in Blahnik’s private archives. Among the highlights is the collection of shoes created in 2006 for Sofia Coppola’s Oscar-winning Marie Antoinette film.
The curator chose to showcase the shoes and drawings in six separate sections which highlight Blahnik’s inexhaustive list of inspirations. One of the sections, called “Gala,” highlights some of the most imaginative pieces, including the Marie Antoinette collection, while another showcases how different geographical locations, from Spain to Africa and Japan, have often inspired signature Manolo Blahnik designs.
Other areas examine the influence of architecture in the construction of the shoes, the ways nature and botany have inspired endless designs, as well as the high levels of craftsmanship associated with the brand, by spotlighting pieces with rich fabrications and elaborate materials.
One of the biggest sections displays special, one-off pieces dedicated to influential personalities in Blahnik’s life, including Vogue Italy’s Anna Piagi, Brigitte Bardot and Alexander the Great.
“Manolo is fabulously visual, his mind restless and constantly curious about the world. In each style, he tries to capture what he considers to be the essence of elegance, femininity and beauty which he has channeled and entwined with his various cultural and emotional influences,” said de Albornoz. “Manolo’s shoes carry also his emotions, passions and his love for life; they echo his complex inner universe beyond conventions and the result simply excels.”
De Albornoz has also penned a book to mark the launch of the touring residencies. Published by Rizzoli, the tome carries excerpts from conversations the curator had with Blahnik and aims to give the reader further insight into his colorful world and everything that motivates him. It will be on sale at each participating museum, as well as on the brand’s recently launched website in partnership with Farfetch.