Growing up surrounded by magical shoes sounds like our dream upbringing, but for Kristina Blahnik it was reality.

Niece of the celebrated footwear designer, and CEO of the luxury brand that is famous the world over, Kristina Blahnik has a lot of pressure on her shoulders to preserve the legacy and push the brand forward.

She grew up in the boutique, located down the side street off King’s Road in London’s Chelsea, playing around with so many fabulous creations that would make even Carrie Bradshaw green with envy.

Cambridge-educated, Kristina has a background in architecture and took over as CEO of Manolo Blahnik in 2009. Kristina took a trip down memory with EW and gave us an insight into what plans she has for a brand that’s been adorning the feet of shoe collectors for decades.

 

Kristina-Blahnik interview

Did you grow up surrounded by shoes?

I grew up in our shop on Old Church Street in a shoebox, it was my playground! When the shoes arrived in the store, in big cardboard boxes my mother and uncle would transform it into a Wendy house!

What was your first clear memory of Manolo Blahnik shoes?

When I was I think around eight-years-old, I was obsessed with a pair of red patent 115m heels – as soon as I finished school I would put them on and dance around our Old Church Street shop!

What is the fondest memory of your uncle from your childhood?

I used to sit on his lap when he was sketching new collections at his home in Bath. I was even drawing my own contributions!

How would you define the brand today?

We’re a family that makes beautiful creations in the hope to make people smile! Especially now focusing on wellbeing and Mental Health as well as telling rich stories of our heritage.

How have you seen the Manolo Blahnik customer change and evolve?

The customer of Manolo Blahnik is every person from all walks of life. There is no ‘one type’ of Manolo woman or man which in turn affords limitless creative freedom.

 

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Why do you think this brand appeals to the Middle Eastern customer?

The Middle Eastern customer are incredibly discerning and have exceptional taste for luxury and craftmanship – core pillars at the heart of Manolo Blahnik.

How do you go about preserving your uncle’s legacy and push the brand forward at the same time?

To optimise and not maximise is our key ethos at Manolo Blahnik. Rather being bound by numbers, decisions are driven by heritage and creativity; pillars at the forefront of our business. Protecting the legacy will always be paramount for me, and it’s by building on our foundations and values in which we measure our success.

What have you learnt about yourself since becoming CEO in 2009?

That you can’t do anything on your own, you need a team and a support network around you. I also don’t think of myself as a CEO, I am one in a team and a creative strategist.

What would you say has been your highlight so far?

In September 2009, my uncle, Camilla Morton and I were in Claridge’s and we were introduced to Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye and of course Manolo has used Liberty prints forever and we still do, and Geoffroy said you must do a print for us. I then had lunch with him, and Ed Burstell and one print turned into three prints and by the end of the lunch we decided to do a pop up. Less than a year later it became a reality and I did everything, the contract, supported with design, the press – because that’s what I did as an architect – I did everything, and it was a real turning point for me and for the business – it was a test to see what we could achieve.

What lesson would you like to pass on to the next generation who want enter the world of luxury goods?

Stay humble, stay curious and always be proactive – never reactive.

 

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If you could wear only one style of Manolo Blahnik’s for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Maysale, one of our chicest mules; a 5cm heel height and finished with an oversized buckle – perfect for day or night.

What is on your reading list?

Start With Why by Simon Sinek.

What is your favourite city?

I love London and it’s cultural diversity but on weekends I escape to the country in Sussex – I connect with nature and where I feel truly at home and at peace.

Apart from shoes, what else do you indulge in?

My favourite thing is hosting and cooking for friends. Lockdown is certainly helping me discover new recipes and home in on my cooking skills!

 

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What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Stay curious, read, listen and observe everything!

What is next for Manolo Blahnik?

Maintaining and protecting the legacy will always be our goal, but now is the time to reflect and slow down and re-evaluate. All being well we’re due to open our New York flagship, if not next year but now we are really focusing on mental health and well-being of our employees, our supply chain and our community with the support of our charity partner Mental Health Foundation

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