An exhibition of 212 models of shoes, 80 sketches and six sections in historic Palazzo Morando celebrates the art of Manolo Blahník. In this way, the city of Milan homages the flair of legendary Spanish shoemaker through his masterpieces made of leather and brocades, brushes and inks.
“Dr. Ph. Martin’s ink is my favorite for the brightness of its colors“, explains the designer in the catalogue of the exhibition.
He had his first lessons in style when he was a child, looking at his mum’s shoes made by Don Christino, the best shoemaker of Santa Cruz de la Palma in the Canaries, where they lived. Then he studied art and architecture (he did not graduate), subjects that instilled in him a keen passion for Mediterranean cultures: greek-Roman sculptures, the Baroque, the novel ‘Il Gattopardo‘, Sicilian corals.
In 1971, artist Paloma Picasso and photographer Maurice Hogenboom introduced him to Diana Vreeland. He walked in her office at American Vogue with a a sketchbook full of drawings of thin and sophisticated heels, that are totally different from the baroque platforms fashionable at the time.
Famous for her eye and ability to discover new talents, Diana Vreeland lingered particularly on a drawing of an ankle wrapped in ivy and cherries, and she exclaimed: “Focus on the tips and draw shoes! Do what makes you happy. Do not think of them as shoes but as masterpieces”.
Then, the young Blahník came back to London, where he was working in pr and dreaming of job as cinema and theatre set designer and hanging out with an eccentric fashionable crew, determined to devote himself entirely to footwear.
The myth of Manolo Blahnik shoes with devotees all around the world was born.
For 42 years, season after season, the designer redefines the world of footwear and sets new standards of femininity, in a mix of crazy, fancy and perfect elegance.
As he always says, his focus isn’t following fashion trends: is to satisfy curious women, the lovers of love and life. An example above all: American model Tina Chow, met at party in London in the mid-Seventies.
“In addition to her beauty, she was the most chic and intelligent woman I’ve ever met. She was born in America by Japanese and Dutch parents. She was the embodiment of good taste and refinement. I always sought her approval. Sometimes, even now, I draw a shoe wondering if she would like it. […] With her unique sense of style, Tina Chow was defined by Karl Lagerfeld, the inventor of “minimal chic”. We were very similar. Every day she used to change her look, with her inimitable charm. Sometimes she told me: “Today I dress like Manolo” and, imitating me, wore a cashmere cardigan and flannel trousers”.
And Blahník’s philosophy is the same today: his shoes are designed with love in London since the origin and handmade in Italy near Milan, by family owned small companies.
“Diana advised me to study classic designers like André Perugia and Roger Vivier and encouraged me to aim high, repeating: “Think of something wonderful” and “a masterpiece must have a vision, a vision!”, recalls the artist in the catalog of the exhibition“Manolo Blahnik. The Art of Shoes“, edited by Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz, promoted by the City of Milan (Comune di Milano | Cultura, Direzione Musei Storici), produced and organized by Arthemisia Group in collaboration with Manolo Blahník.
The solo show is a path in Blahník’s story through six sections ( Core; Materials; Constructions; Gala; Nature; Geographic and botanical influences), that represent all his sources of inspiration: famous characters like Alexander the Great, friends of a lifetime like journalist Anna Piaggi, the richness of fabrics and colors, Marie Antoinette, then Spain, Italy, Africa, Russia, England and Japan, plus all the Italian art history and culture.
After Milan, the exhibit will move to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg – Russia was for Blahnik a constant source of inspiration – then to Museum Kampa in Prague, home of the artist’s father, then to National Museum of Decorative Arts in Madrid, as a tribute of his native land, and finally by mid- 2018 at the prestigious Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada.