0.7 - Manolo Blahnìk's Art


From 26th January to 9th April in Morando Palace, Milan (Italy) it is arranged an exhibition of Manolo Blahnìk's shoes titled "The Art of Shoes". I was there last weekend. It was an amazing "dive" in his art within a delicious framework as in this eighteenth-century building next to Via Montenapoleone in Milan. Luckily it was allowed to make pics so I could make some. In this exhibition: 212 shoe models and 80 drawings signed by the stylist in its 45 years of activity. You can watch the full video on my visit there by my YouTube Channel.

The exhibition is divided into six sections: in the first one, footwear dedicated to historical and contemporary characters that inspired the designer (from Alexander the Great to Brigitte Bardot until Anna Piaggi, lead editor of Vogue Italy). After an excursus on the materials used by Blahnik, the exhibition examines his passion for art and architecture before passing into the fourth section about selection of the most imaginative models of the designer. Here you'll find shoes he designed to queen Marie-Antoinette movie (2006) (starring Kirsten Dust). The fifth section is devoted to the love of Blahnik for nature, while in the last section there are showed models inspired by Spain, Italy, Africa, Russia, England and Japan.

Before starting our virtual itinerary, let me introduce this famous shoes-designer.
Manolo Blahnìk with "Madrid" pumps (2017) on his shoulder.
Manuel "Manolo" Blahnik Rodríguez (hereinafter, also as "MB") is a Spanish fashion designer (1942) founding his eponymous high-end shoe brand. His Czech father's family owned a pharmaceutical firm in Prague while his mother's family owned a banana plantation in Santa Cruz de la Palma (Spain). He was homeschooled during his childhood until he started studying Diplomacy (Politics and Law) in Switzerland. During that time he became increasingly interested in Literature and Architecture. In 1965 he got his degree in this last field and then moved to Paris to study Art at the École des Beaux-Arts and Stage Set Design at the Louvre Art School. 

We'll see throughout the above mentioned exhibition how these studies of him have influenced his shoes design. His career in fashion industry jumped up when he started working as a buyer for a fashion boutique in London called "Zapata" ("shoe" in Spanish). At the same time he was writing for L'Uomo Vogue (and Italian men's version of Vogue). It is just in 1978 when Ossie Clark invited him to create shoes for his runway show that " Manolo Blahnìk", as worldwide known, was born. This let him work for other major footwear brands, such as Jean Muir and Zandra Rhodes. With a loan of £2,000 Manolo acquired Zapata so to open his own boutique. 

In two years he became the second man on the cover of UK Vogue (after Helmut Berger). In 1977 his brand "bursted into" US market through Bloomingdales and opened his first boutique there. His flagship store is still in Old Church Street in the fashionable Chelsea district of London. By this biography it is surprising how this very talented designer has never learnt how to make shoes in school. Rather he enhanced his skills on this by working in- and visiting shoes factories, by talking with fashion producers and taylors. He started by focusing on men footwear and then he became one of the most famous female shoes designers in the world.

Like any great couturier, MB’s shoe style is kept to small exclusive production numbers and his signature is easily recognizable. His classic Stiletto Heels are the followings: BB Pump; Hangisi Pump; Swan Pump; Campari Pump; Chaos Sandal.

Now you're ready to start visiting the exhibition through the report I made last Saturday for you (further details on my new YouTube Channel, as already cited: Cinderella' Slipper). 
In welcoming visitors to this itinerary a big black wall signed by Manolo Blahnìk himself (first pic here above) where three cubes showcases shield beautiful heels of his brand. The consequent astonishment in your mind probably let you be confused in how to procede. No problem! Whether you choose to turn on the right or on the left of this black wall beautiful shoes and their related drawings are waiting for you to be admired. 

Let turn on the right, as above mentioned the first section of the exhibition regards footwear dedicated to historical and contemporary characters that inspired the designer (from Alexander the Great to Brigitte Bardot until Anna Piaggi, lead editor of Vogue Italy). Here below I would like to mention just few samples of the main shoes fascinating me the most then.

In the early rooms we can admire heels with fur, lace-up, and sicilian corals. In Pic1, "Permin" pumps (2011-2012 - suede and fur shoes). Moving to subsequent rooms showcases shield multicolor leather shoes from 70's till now, ankle-boots as well as crazy neon fischerman-boots (resulting by a collaboration with Vetements), denim-country boots, bone bottoms and further fringes.

A couple of rooms later there's a glamorous heel waiting for your eyes in a showcase among eleven shoes in satin. It's "Pacrabor" ( a gold brocade sandal with hand embroidery made in 2015 - Pic2). I love this color comb. Maybe that' s why they were like calling me at the end of that corridor!

Then, we can move through further showcases with pumps as from Disney fairytales ("Guagnione" pumps (2011-2012) and "Gonul" mule (2008) in gold-velvet-lilly-white satin). A curious jump into japanese culture then faces us on strange sandals inspired to Geishas in spotted pony with aluminium four pronged heels. This is "Jetta" (2011), indeed, Pic3. At the beginning I was quite wondering about its comfort. It was not one of my favourite but here it deserves special mention as much as it is so unique. Leave back the Japanese room to move to an exotic eastern room with floral-blu printed walls hosting "savage" shoes inspired to Africa and Russia with further leather, fringes, patched style, tartan, fur, army details. 

Then stop in one of my favourite rooms of this exhibition dedicated to SS2016 where flowers, fruits, trees, leaves and parfums welcome us in a fairy atmosphere. The fab "Clizia" boots are here (Pic4): mesh ankle-boots decorated with chiffon and vinyl flowers and glass beads. I loved this section where the panel explained that collection called "Nature", where a botanic flavour reminds viewer to Manolo Blanhìk childhood in Canary Islands and his fascination to " formal qualities of flowers".
The artist designed a shoe included in this collection called "Lagartija" (lizard - here on the right), "which is the result of this everlasting memory of his childhood". Nature world has been a perennial inspiring source for MB ever since his first collection made for the already mentioned Ossie Clark in 1972: a pair of shoes with featuring red suede cherries with ivy.

Subsequently, an entire room regards Marie-Antoinette movie, as already mentioned. Shoes in this room show his studies on that age to achieve results as performed in this  movie (Pic5 - "Tourzel", satin mule with crystal buckle which I love the color of): a TV at the end of this section shows some scenes from that film. 

Special mention to the physics-challenging heels in the subsequent sections show once more the abilities and studies of this artist in Architecture and Art: Pic6, "Armadillo" (1999) mule closed to "Plutania" (2012). His interest in nature comes back somehow anticipating the YSL pumps introduced during the last Paris Fashion Week by Anthony Vaccarello's Collection as topic of the previous post to this blog (0.6).

Let me end this post with the iconic "Hangisi" pumps performing in Sex&TheCity (here on the left): a made-in-Italy satin almond toe pump featuring Swarowski crystal buckle and a spin high heel. Sole: 100% cow leather. Lining: 100% kid leather. Heel measures 105mm. In this exhibition we'll find its pink version although we know it in blue as donned by Carrie Bradshaw (965,00$). 

About this iconic pumps, Manolo Blahnìk said "I always had a fondness for brilliant accessories, so we created a court shoe with this beautiful embellished buckle, which I found in Italy. The whole shoe was inspired by Napoleon I, Josephine and Pauline Bonaparte."
I can be very satisfied by such a beautiful exhibition on footwear design art by MB. It was like visiting neither a shoes factory nor a shop. It was somthing more! It was like falling into heaven to admire this jewelry and dreaming room after room while adrenaline was increasingly controlling my senses. A unique emotion every footwear-lover like me should feel!

sources: Manoloblahnik.com, Exhibition site, Wikipedia.

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