With a career spanning 50 years, Spanish-born Manolo Blahnik is one of the world’s most influential footwear designers. “Shoes help transform a woman,” he says. His designs and sketches have appeared in museum exhibitions and numerous books (the latest being 2017’s The Art of Shoes). He collaborated with director Sofia Coppola on the costumes for her 2006 film Marie Antoinette (the film went on to win the Academy Award for Best Costume Design). He’s also an Honorary CBE and has won awards like the Footwear News Lifetime Achievement Award and the British Fashion Council Outstanding Achievement Award. So, it was time for the designer to have a rich yet welcoming new New York City flagship that honors his creations and takes the brand forward. “New York has always evoked a great sense of excitement for me, a city of endless possibilities,” says Blahnik. “So, it is an honor for me to open on Madison Avenue, an exquisite location, which I remember fondly from our formative years.” We spoke with Kristina Blahnik, the founder’s niece and the company’s CEO, to learn more about this homecoming.
What was special about this space?
“Manolo’s very first store in America in the late 1970s was on Madison Avenue, so when we found this particular building, it felt like a true coming home. At the time of visiting the space it was two separate stores, so to be able to turn this magnificent double-fronted building from the 1920s back to single use was a unique opportunity. To also have our showroom and offices above means that this really is the beating heart of Manolo Blahnik in America.”
Who did you work with to bring this vision to life?
“We worked with award-winning interior designer and friend of the brand David Thomas, whom we had previously worked with for our Paris boutique. David has a fantastic understanding of Manolo’s vision and cultural collages as well as the house values.”
What aesthetic were you going for with this project?
“Our boutiques all have a one-of-a-kind aesthetic that reference the location and Manolo’s whimsical style. The New York boutique also takes on this approach and embodies Hollywood Regency, a theme that evokes grandeur and opulence but still has a sense of warmth and intimacy.”
What are your favorite design elements?
“The striped double-height ceilings, which absolutely capture the Hollywood Regency feel. And, of course, there is the bar, as we wanted to create an area where visitors could socialize and congregate. Our first boutique in London’s Chelsea neighborhood became the hangout for Manolo and his friends, so we really wanted to inject a sense of this relaxing ambiance in New York.”