Manolo Blahnik can’t escape the trappings of glitz and glamour even if he tried to. His creations for the female feet have taken on notoriously high stakes.
Vogue Editor Anna Wintour swears by Manolos, proclaiming that she never wore a pair that wasn’t by the fabled designer. The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle has been spotted in Manolo Blahnik BB pumps. Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City famously pleaded with a robber: “You can take my Fendi baguette, you can take my ring and my watch, but please don’t take my Manolo Blahniks.” Dramatic much?
But the King of Heels started off making shoes for men at his London shop in 1973. As if answering the long prayers of ageing dandies everywhere, he recently opened a mens’ store next to his women’s shop in Burlington Arcade, London.
The men’s collection arrives in Singapore at the newly opened Marina Bay Sands (MBS) outpost. Select men’s models are available amid the array of women’s satin slingbacks, bejewelled heels and elegant mules.
The Spaniard’s designs for men might raise some brows for people. There isn’t a single brown or black Oxford or Derby in sight. There are pink suede brogues, and deep blue velvet slippers embellished with jewel buckles. A Manolo insider tells Keyyes that their male clientele includes Russian oligarchs and fashion-forward Singaporeans.
It’s timely to descend on the men’s market. Sales of men’s shoes are reportedly catching up to women’s, and are even on par in certain countries. Women in the United States splash out about US$30 billion annually, according to American market research firm NPD Group Inc. Men spent about US$26.2 billion on shoes in 2016, up from US$23.8 billion in 2014.
The luxe shoe empire is also expanding its footprint in Asia.
The launch of the MBS boutique comes at a time of steady growth in Asia for Manolo Blahnik, says the brand. The 45-year-old label partnered luxury distributor Bluebell Group in 2016 to optimise distribution in the region. In the last two years, the brand launched two stand-alone stores in Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur as well as numerous shop-in-shops.
Every Manolo Blahnik store weaves in elements of local culture to “create an inimitable shopping experience in each destination”.
The walls of the intimate MBS space are lined with bamboo, alongside beige and black rattan square decorations. The design was conceptualised by London architect Nick Leith-Smith and Manolo’s CEO Kristina Blahnik, who happens to be Manolo’s niece.
Keeping in mind Singapore’s colonial and contemporary styles, Leith-Smith says: “The scale of surrounding architecture called for a space with a very distinctive presence. In part our inspiration stemmed from Pierre Chareau’s Maison de Verre framing the space in cubist metal and glass geometries with a striking chequered flooring, evoking that of an elegant colonial style veranda.”
On the prime location for its first stand-alone store in Singapore, Kristina Blahnik says: “Marina Bay Sands is one of the most iconic and recognised places in Singapore. It has been at the forefront of uniquely combining innovative architecture, luxury shopping and leisure so I am very excited that Manolo Blahnik will now be part of this special concept.”