It was a privilege to be invited to a private tea party at Manolo Blahnik's new London shop in Burlington Arcade last week, before it officially opened. The store is his second in London – the first, in Chelsea's Old Church Street, was opened 44 years ago. It has a light, warm atmosphere, and feels very intimate and special, despite the generous three floors of retail space. Apparently his only instruction on how the shop should be designed was to send a picture of a Georgian column that he has in his house, saying that he wanted it to look like that column.
It was a pleasure to receive a signed coffee table book at the event and I was very interested to learn that Manolo studied law (like I did) and then architecture, before he went on to design shoes.
I spoke to his niece Kristina, who is now CEO of the company, and she shared some family stories with me. In an article in The Independent about the new store she is quoted describing the first Chelsea shop: "It was his home, his living room. It's pretty much where I grew up, where my mum worked on the shop floor well into the '90s. That's our home."
The location of the second shop was very important to Manolo – his love for the tradition and history surrounding Burlington Arcade made it the perfect choice. There is a lovely video interview with him from the opening event on the Evening Standard website.