Manolo Blahnik x Lane Crawford: The Archive Collection
For the Mayans, 2012 signals the world’s ultimate demise but for Manolo Blahnik, it is only the preparation period for a huge career milestone that’s set to happen the following year. The Spanish designer will be celebrating his 40th year in the shoemaking industry and he has a massive cult of chic followers to partake in this momentous event.
American Vogue editor Diana Vreeland may have played a decisive role in Blahnik’s career (she convinced him to pursue shoe design) but his passion for what has been dubbed as ‘a girl’s other best friend’ has always been innate to him. “I think women are just like, to me, movement,” Blahnik said. “I do high heels because I want to provoke those kind of almost very unreal movement which is very theatrical… very dramatic when you put on a pair of high heels.”
Taking into account all other footwear connoisseurs who, like Blahnik, have long made a name in the industry, it may have initially seemed to pose as a challenge for his label to come out directly on top. However, popularity wasn’t too daunting a goal for him because anchoring on the belief that comfort should not be compromised over gimmickry, he had earned the trust of millions of women all over the globe.
The 69-year-old has been especially lauded for creating timeless shoe designs—never succumbing to ostentatious fads that litter the shoe universe such as platforms and towering heels. He was always true to his promise of providing women with ‘proper shoes with heels’. Perhaps it was this firm indifference to trends that paved for Manolo Blahnik’s enviable longevity.
Seeing how an inspiring story like his must never go untold, the folks at Lane Crawford made it their mission to share it to the rest of the world. The fashion retail mogul will be the official distributor of what every avid Blahnik fan could only dream of: a reissuance of the label’s iconic shoe designs during the past forty years. For a limited time, Lane Crawford stores will be displaying an archive of his masterpieces since 1973, namely Piaggi, Pimenta, Tuberose, Rodrigo, Digo, Calder, Okla, Zipa, Bul and Terrier.
Furthermore, Manolo Blahnik has partnered with other luxury brands such as Globe-Trotter, Fortnum & Mason, Olmetto, Connor, Causse Gantier and Artel to work his magic on suitcases, hampers, silk scarves, stationeries, gloves, and glasses, respectively.
As you read on, you will find out more about these carefully crafted “Manolos” and their splendid histories.
With a career that spans over forty years, it was inevitable for Blahnik to develop a profound connection with fellow legends in the style industry. Anna Piaggi, a permanent fixture in the Italian fashion scene, remains up to this day a close friend of his. To honor their partnership, Blahnik named a creation after her in 1974 which became the first among many collaborations that followed between the editor and the designer.
The Piaggi is basically a hybrid of open-toe sandals and lace-up boots. Covered entirely in grey and white stripes from the ankle to its 6 cm heel, this design is said to be inspired from a trip to the Balkans.
Judging by the showstopping design of this piece, the Pimenta is truly a testament to Blahnik’s unrestrained imaginations. As its name suggests, the sandals are based on chilli peppers which the founder of the New World, Christopher Columbus, introduced to his homeland Spain. Talk about HOT shoes!
Now there is just a lot going on in these Pimentas. Released in 1977, these open-toe sandals feature slim ankle ties with ‘chilli spike’ detail at the ends and 10.5 cm heels that are dotted with red tacks. The shiny patent vamp is also accentuated with the same quirky red spikes.
Every designer recognizes a need for some celebrity endorsement to successfully advertise his/her product. However, Blahnik didn’t entirely rely on such orthodox marketing strategies. As self-professed fans of his shoe line, celebrities themselves willingly flaunt their Manolos and Bianca Jagger was one of them.
During her discotheque days, the first wife of rock legend Mick Jagger made headlines during her 30th birthday celebration at Studio 54 back in 1977. Wearing an off-shoulder dress and of course, a pair of Manolos, she made a grand entrance riding on a white horse.
Like Bianca Jagger, Blahnik was a staunch supporter of contemporary art. To pay homage to the modern pop art genre, he came out with Tuberose—multi-colored flat sandals with lace-up ties on the vamp and heels. This design was introduced in 1981 and uses soft pony-hair. Interestingly, the playful color scheme of yellow, blue and red actually took inspiration from a pop art painting depicting a garden in hell.
The following year, Blahnik played with stylish prints and released the Terrier shoes which feature a modish plaid pattern. A native of the Canary Islands, Blahnik incorporates the tartan print which is fundamentally associated with his neighboring country Scotland.
The Terrier is a clear demonstration of how the designer plays his materials very well. As you can see, black patent leather provides an adequate contrast to the loud prints of the shoes. The outer leg is decked by a row of black buttons but these ankle boots actually fasten on the inner leg zipper.
1988 marked a collaboration between Blahnik and American designer and former creative director of Liz Claiborne Isaac Mizrahi. For this project, he made his own vogue rendition of the desert boots worn by British Forces during the World War II in the North African Western Desert Campaign.
What makes this design a sure winner is that it has no pretensions; no intricate accents were necessary to amp up its appeal. And in true desert boot style, they’re loose on the ankles and therefore very comfy to wear. The Rodrigo ankle boots are covered in fine suede and feature a pair of eyelets for lacing. They come in a variety of color options: tan, red, blue and leopard.
“I went in with a huge pile of imaginary designs for theater, because I wanted to be a theater designer, film designer,” shared Blahnik about the first time he presented his drawings to Vreeland. While the latter pointed him to this very glorious path he had taken, Blahnik will always have a special place for cinema in his heart, so don’t blame him for basing his handiworks on flicks he personally adored.
Case in point: Digo. The concept behind these high-heeled mesh sandals originated from the British horror movie “The Innocents” that was screened way back in 1961. Needless to say, the man has an impeccable taste in films too!
As much as he loved cinema, the Spanish designer also has a strong fondness of art and it clearly exudes in his work. The 1993 Calder, for instance, is an embodiment of Neo-Plasticism which the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian has immortalized. Similar to his iconic paintings, the pumps adopted the almost hypnotic mix of grids and primary colors but instead of mimicking Mondrian’s signature thick black lines, Blahnik used silver trims.
On a much earlier date, Yves Saint Laurent also paid homage to the Dutch painter by launching the Fall 1965 Mondrian collection which showcased dresses that were sort of akin to the artist’s paintings. It turns out that abstract expressionism suited perfectly to the mod fashion of the sixties.
While Blahnik certainly didn’t start the women empowerment movement, his business was practically a service to this advocacy. The designer has regularly included androgynous pieces in his collections that were somehow able to blur the line between men’s and ladies’ footwear.
Quite amusingly, Blahnik also reinvented footwear designs that were universally known to be exclusively for men into something highly coveted by women. Just look at Okla. Brown leather-trim cuff – Check! Neutral suede upper – Check! Yellow and brown striped shoe laces – Check! Yep, the Okla has all the major elements of authentic lumberjack boots, but Blahnik has amazingly transformed it from something outright rugged to über stylish; even Jennifer Lopez would wear it! (She wore a pair of Oklas in her “Jenny from the Block” music video back in 2003.)
Name one designer who never took inspiration from the Victorian Era.
Well, you can’t possibly come up with one as the 18th century was one of the most significant times in the history of fashion. Blahnik himself adored this period and so came up with Zipa. These two-tone Chelsea boots were particularly inspired by Little Dorrit, a serial novel by the greatest novelist of that era, Charles Dickens.
Blahnik took a break from leather and created Bul¬—a pair of lace-up boots with an entirely denim upper. He made this piece for a collaborative project with British designer Christopher Kane. Showcasing metal toe caps, the Bul was released as part of Kane’s Spring/Summer 2008 collection which was mainly characterized by denim and chiffon pieces.
All these Manolos will make a roaring comeback at Lane Crawford stores in Hong Kong