When Manolo Blahnik designed his first shoe collection for Swinging Sixties legend Ossie Clark, the models didn’t sashay down the catwalk. They stumbled like baby deer. British photographer Cecil Beaton dubbed it “a new way of walking”—Blahnik had created thick rubber heels without steel support rods, a bittersweet accident which would go on to be the tile of his new virtual universe, 50 years later.
Marking five decades of Blahnik’s shoemaking mastery, the label will be opening its archives to the world in the form of a virtual museum, ‘A New Way of Walking’. For the first time, audiences globally will get an expansive look at the fantastical creations of Blahnik in their full glory.
Fashion aficionados in London got a glimpse into Blahnik’s archives back in 2019, when the designer staged an exhibition of his works against the decadent backdrop of 18th century art at the Wallace Collection. This virtual museum goes a step further. Themed across five ‘rooms’, audiences all around the world will be able to access the brand’s treasure trove of drawings, sketches and, of course, his shoes.
The interactive archive is a labour of love that has been 18 months in the making. Each room offers a deep dive into the different corners of Blahnik’s world, from his sartorial collaborations with Diana Vreeland and Anna Piaggi to tributes to the artisans who have bring his creations to life. Enlisting the historical and curatorial expertise of acclaimed exhibition-maker Judith Clark, the archive promises a wide-ranging survey of the most pivotal moments that have come to define Blahnik’s career.
The resurgence of the stiletto, for one, can be singlehandedly attributed to Blahnik’s scene-stealing pumps in Sex and the City. Ever since Carrie Bradshaw’s onscreen Manolo robbery and Mr Big’s iconic proposal with blue Blahnik pumps, Manolos have become synonymous with the high heel and all its associations to glamour, style and beyond.
Blahnik’s shoes are cultural artefacts in their own right, reaching far beyond Carrie Bradshaw. His designs have also adorned countless gaits on the red carpet. Ask any Hollywood stylist and Manolos are sure to be in their arsenal of show-stopping glamour. A non-exhaustive list of their silver screen appearances speaks for itself. The gold strappy sandals of Claire Danes’ Juliet in Romeo + Juliet; the cast of Gossip Girl; Margot Robbie’s taunting stiletto scene in The Wolf of Wall Street; Andy Sach’s sartorial awakening in The Devil Wears Prada; the cast of Gossip Girl; and who could forget—the candied, hedonistic montages of Sofia Coppola’s 2006 masterpiece, Marie Antoinette.
This season, Blahnik has drawn inspiration from a myriad of artists and creative geniuses across history. He has never been one to shy away from cross-referencing, and it’s likely why his shoe designs have held such cultural resonance. From the abstract strokes of Jackson Pollock to 19th century realist novels of Giovanni Verga, his Winter 21 collection is a continuation of Blahnik’s long-standing homage to art and heritage.
This season also sees the launch of a glittering capsule collection—literally. Occupying one of the five themed rooms, ‘Bells’ is Blahnik’s anniversary collection of all-gold creations, reinterpreting some of his most iconic shapes, from the Flequillo to the Campnilla. Honouring the brand’s ongoing exploration of gold, the capsule runs the gamut from baroque pumps to opulent loafers. Alongside the launch of the virtual archive, this collection is also available to shop in stores and online.
In his unabashed pastiche of influences—and a virtual museum to immortalise it all—it’s clear Blahnik’s legacy is here to stay. And as Cecil Beaton presciently coined back in 1971, a new way of walking has been in motion indeed—and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The Winter Collection is available also at Level 2 Takashimaya Department Store, 391A Orchard Road
Brought to you by Manolo Blahnik