Manolo Blahnik on The Craft Room, His Inspirations and Experience

Words by Zue Wei Leong

Manolo Blahnik, founder of the eponymous footwear brand, on why it is important for him to share the process behind crafting the perfect shoes, from start to finish.

In 2021, Manolo Blahnik launched adigital archive—The Manolo Blahnik Archives—to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. It was a resounding success with over a million visitors to date, each one eager to learn more about the iconic luxury footwear brand and its founder.

Catering to that demand is The Craft Room, a virtual experience in the digital archives documenting the artistry and artisans behind the brand’s most iconic designs. After all, Blahnik’s journey began in the early 1970s where he often visited the bestItalian shoe factories to speak with artisans and learn everything there is to know about their craft.

Designed by his niece and CEO Kristina Blahnik, the Craft Room comprises eight vignettes that explain each and every component behind the perfect Manolo Blahnik shoe: design, construction, typology, techniques, accessories, material, marking and the different considerations for its men’s collection.

BAZAAR speaks to Manolo Blahnik himself about his experience and purpose behind introducing The Craft Room.

Manolo Blahnik

Here’s our conversation with Manolo Blahnik:

What was the motivation behind The Manolo Blahnik Digital Archives?

It is important to move with the times and with the virtual archives, I wanted a global audience to have the opportunity toenjoy the world we have created. Technology is so wonderful in the way it allows you to connect with the world instantaneously.I love that I can transport into the archives at a click of a button!

See also
26-Year-Old Model Dies On Catwalk At Brazil Fashion Show

How would you describe the process of setting up The Manolo Blahnik Archive alongside Kristina Blahnik?

I am so happy that Kristina and I have been able to work on this together. It has been a wonderful experience delving into my archive sketches and bringing them back to life. We have had such fun creating this virtual archive. For Kristina, it was a dream she had to protect the legacy of the brand by creating our archive. She began personally photographing our historic collections 22 years ago. We now have an incredible team of four people internally who are dedicated to preserving and digitising my archive.

The addition of the Craft Room celebrates Manolo Blahnik’s expertise in shoemaking. Why is it important for consumers to understand the craftsmanship behind every Manolo Blahnik creation?

Every shoe is a work of art, with its own story, personality and name! It is carefully designed and crafted using many techniques. The Manolo Blahnik Archives allows viewers to see how much love and passion goes into every creation.

I want to showcase the work of the artisans in the factory who bring all my creations to life, many of whom I have been working with for over 35 years and oftentimes, their talent has been passed down through generations. You can have a great sketch, but you are nowhere without the people who can bring that sketch to life.

Why is it important to have synergy with your team of artisans? What is one unforgettable lesson you have learned from them?

I am constantly learning from the artisans. Craftsmanship isin their blood. Their love of shoemaking continues to inspir eme to keep pushing boundaries and to try new techniques.

See also
Chanel Will Contribute €25 Million To Help Renovate The Grand Palais

An important lesson I learned in the beginning is how important the process of trial and error is when testing the shoes. When we seethe right fabric and colour, we know immediately—it’s a gut feeling.

There are 11 techniques on display in The Craft Room, including pleating, embroidery, and more. Which doyou think is the most difficult to master?

All techniques are difficult to master but my artisans are incredible at what they do. One of my favourite techniques is embroidery as this is all done so intricately by hand. I admire this technique and the patience and precision required.

The artisans’ techniques are passed down through generations so the new generation learn from true masters of shoemaking. Working in the factory is truly the best part of my job. I’ll go to my factory with my niece and the time flies by. I’ll start at 8:00 and work late into the evening, I have no sense of time when I’m working, I love what I do so it never feels like work!

From the Canary Islands and Paris to London and New York, your journey in shoemaking has been an international one. How does your international experience inform your creative process?

I am inspired by anything and everything! My inspirations come from all over the world, architecture, nature, art, I adore it all! I have met so many wonderful friends on my journey who have inspired me.

See also
Go Behind The Scenes at Hermès’s 'Avec Elle' Exhibition in Tokyo

One of my classic styles, the BB was named after Brigitte Bardot.Brigitte has always been an inspiration for me. I knew that shoe wouldbe a classic and feature in many of my collections, so I wanted toname it after someone who was globally recognisable and a symbol of timeless, elegant beauty.

For aspiring designers, The Craft Room is an accessible learning resource and offers insights into the industry. Do you have any practical advice for them?

Be true to yourself and stay curious. Find inspiration in everything and love what you do. Hard work is everything. You have to keep going, keep going, keep going!

Many in the industry struggle to balance commercial viability with creativity and innovation in design. How have you navigated this over the years?

I don’t follow trends and only design pieces that I feel passionate about, that is what makes our business unique and what our clients want. I’ve been doing this for so long that I can look at a shoe andI know if it will sell or not. Our customers return for creative designs that are elegant with a timeless quality.

What do you have in the pipeline for 2024?

To keep going. I hope that people continue to enjoy the shoesI create and make people smile

Discover more about The Craft Room here.