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Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes

A retrospective of iconic footwear lands at the Bata Shoe Museum.

The fact that Manolo Blahniks have been endlessly worn by everyone from Anna Wintour and Rihanna to—fictional Sex and the City character—Carrie Bradshaw illustrates the iconic footwear designer’s universal appeal and singular talent. Over the past 45 years, since launching his design career with a shoe collection for Ossie Clark in 1972, Blahnik has created over 30,000 shoes, on his way to becoming one of the most prolific and popular accessories designers today.

“When we see a shoe of Blahnik, he has created a new language with shoes, and you can identify that immediately,” says exhibition guest curator Dr. Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz. “He created these shoes which have so much personality [and are] beautifully crafted. And, you know, it took him 15 years to create really the shoe he wanted to create. So his shoes are also extremely comfortable.”

This month, The Art of Shoes debuts at the Bata Shoe Museum for its only stop in North America, and the final stop on a global tour that kicked off last year in Milan. On display will be around 200 of the designer’s favourite and most iconic designs, hand selected by Manolo Blahnik with Carrillo de Albornoz, alongside footwear illustrations by Blahnik. “I thought, we have to include his drawings, because he is such a magnificent draftsman,” says Carrillo de Albornoz “That’s why there are also 80 drawings in the exhibition, which correspond to some of the shoes.”

Organized into six themes—Nature, Art and Architecture, Gala, Heart, Geography and Materials—which Carrillo de Albornoz describes as some of the “main obsessions of his life,” the exhibition gives a comprehensive overview of Blahnik’s storied career and contributions to fashion history and popular culture. Styles on display include the ’70s suede sandals designed for Ossie Clark, shoes created for the Sophia Coppola film Marie Antoinette, and even boots from Blahnik’s buzzy 2016 collaboration with fashion label Vetements.

“The editing process took very long,” recalls Carrillo de Albornoz. “The more you know Mr. Blahnik, the more you see that he has an extraordinary fantasy, an extraordinary free activity, and a sense of humour which is all in his shoes.”

Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes is on at the Bata Shoe Museum from May 16, 2018 through January 6, 2019.

Images courtesy of the Bata Shoe Museum.


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