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How Manolo Blahnik’s Niece is Redesigning the Brand for a New Era

kristina Blahnik, Manolo Blahnik

Kristina Blahnik

Kristina Blahnik’s first memory of shoes was playing in the shop, which she lovingly recalls as her playground. “Not many people get the chance to grow up in a shoebox,” she smiles. Not many people can refer to Manolo Blahnik as their uncle, either.

If, as a young ingénue in the Eighties, she would sit on his lap at his home in Bath, watching the Spanish designer sketch a new collection, today, she is the CEO of the footwear company, and generally can be seen dressed in monochrome Alaïa and “always Manolos.” Manolo Blahnik became a household name when the luxury shoes were pronounced as Carrie Bradshaw’s footwear of choice on the hit Nineties show Sex and the City. While in parallel, Blahnik’s niece studied and pursued a path in architecture for almost two decades, shoes ultimately became her calling.

“I felt drawn to the family business,” she says. “I have truly done everything. When I started, we were a team of six, so you had to pitch in to do what was needed at that time, and I still do.” Under her eye, the team has grown to more than 80 and the turnover increased nearly tenfold. Citing Start with Why by Simon Sinek as the book that “changed my life and my perspective on everything,” the eagle-eyed leader recalls a pivotal moment in her career and the business.

In 2009 she was introduced to executive Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye. “Of course, Manolo has used Liberty prints forever, and we still do. Geoffroy said you must do a print for us. One print turned into three and by the end of lunch, we decided to do a pop-up. Less than a year later it became a reality and I did everything – the contract, supported the design, the press – because that’s what I did as an architect – everything. It was a turning point for me and the business; it was a test to see what we could achieve.” She has since spearheaded award-winning collaborations with Rihanna and Vetements.

Spending her weekends in Hunter rainboots tending to her countryside Sussex home where she loves to cook and host friends, Blahnik considers her strengths. “I’m strong, I’m motivated, deeply passionate, and always curious. Over the past few years, I have found the importance of vulnerability, and the strength it gives you.” She also believes to have taught her uncle confidence to explore new ways of working in a constantly changing era. A key takeaway from her the man behind some of the world’s most beloved shoes? “Curiosity; it’s limitless,”  she smiles. With more than 300 points of sale in 35 countries and 20 standalone stores, following a new US flagship, the brand is strategizing to grow its retail footprint in the Middle East.

Originally published in the March 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia

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