Statuesque, hair pulled into a simple chignon and beautiful features framed with a pair of drop earrings, Kristina Blahnik is the walking embodiment of the woman her uncle, the famous shoe couturier Manolo Blahnik, designs for. Trained in architecture and with a practice to her name, the younger Blahnik stepped up to the role of CEO in 2009, and since then, she has steered the business forward with equal parts savviness and respect for creativity. “It is everything — the absolute core of it all. Manolo’s creativity, intellect, cultural knowledge and curiosity happens to manifest itself as a shoe,” she explains. “But the essence behind that kind of thought process, curiosity, research and looking at conventions and traditions, then deconstructing them, is something we also do as a company.”
Drawing parallels from your experience as an architect, what are the key pillars of Manolo Blahnik?
There’s creativity, integrity and quality. The foundations of the Manolo Blahnik brand go very deep so that you can build and nurture your values and philosophy on solid ground. I’m seeing more companies chasing after short-term success until their foundations become wide and thin. It cracks off easily at the ends. It’s heart-breaking to see beautiful brands no longer succeeding because they’ve diversified so much in terms of their product category that they don’t know what the core product or message is. It’s very important to not lose sight of that. The decisions we make aren’t five-year plans. It’s about keeping to a 500-year plan. It’s not coming from an immediate need to fulfil a demand.
How do you think the brand can evolve in this digital era to meet the demands?
Communication is changing at the speed of light and there is always a different trend from one day to the next. I think the digital world is just as fashion driven as the physical fashion world, you know? For us, it’s not about riding through rough waters, but navigating constantly changing weather fronts with solid consistency. Our overriding mission is to make people smile in everything we do.
Do you think fashion has lost its sense of fun?
I think there’s an irony in fashion now. There’s something uncomfortable about the harvesting of creativity. I think that has taken the fun out of fashion. It’s forced. You can sense it because it’s disingenuous. But then there are still moments when you can see huge amounts of fun being had. Vetements is having a lot of fun challenging preconceptions. If you want disruptive, they’re disruptive in a good way, too.
How is diversity celebrated at the brand?
Diversity is very important to have as a conversation, but I celebrate the fact that I’m already in a very diverse world. As a company, it’s not something that we have to consciously think about because it is already part of our DNA. We celebrate everything with open arms. Because sources of inspiration come from everywhere.
What do you want people to say about your time at Manolo Blahnik?
That I’ve protected it and kept it pure. Manolo’s vision is so pure in its creativity and intellect, and what I’m creating is a beautiful structure and environment where he can be free inside. At the end of the day, what we have is soul.
This story first appeared on www.harpersbazaar.com.sg