Toronto: by WM STAFF, May 2018
After exhibiting in Milan, Russia, Prague, and Madrid, Manolo Blahnik has finally taken his shoe exhibit to its final destination in North America. “Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes” has arrived at the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto where it will be open to the public until January 6, 2019. Bata Shoe Museum's guest curator Dr. Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz, along with the legendary designer himself, handpicked 200 shoes from the 30,000 creations that Blahnik created during his tenure as a women’s shoemaker. In addition, about 80 original shoe sketches are featured in the museum. Blahnik's shoe creations featured in the Toronto museum are founded on the underlying theme of "footwear as an artwork." In their creation, he used his architectural skills that he learned from his time at university to transform everyday footwear into masterpieces that women can feel empowered to wear.
Among Blahnik’s many creations are high heels, which, according to him, women should continue to embrace. "I've always been giving women empowerment,” said Blahnik in an interview with CBC - “Shoes make them powerful.” While many women are put off by how painful high heels can be, Blahnik suggests that proper shoes can both be the source of comfort and empowerment. "If you buy horrible shoes, this is torture,” he said. “If you buy something well-done and beautiful, it's not torture.”
Senior curator at the Bata Shoe Museum Elizabeth Semmelhack said that Blahnik's colorful career as a shoemaker and the many influences that he draws from both art and history make the exhibit worth visiting. Even if his works are often depicted as “classic,” Semmelhack states that the way Blahnik’s designs are sketched and made, they "do rise to the level of art."
Apart from high heels, the exhibit also includes footwear that Blahnik created in the early 70s, and shoes that were used in Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette. The exhibition has been a huge success, and was held in some of the most prestigious museums in Europe. In Milan and Russia, the exhibition was held in the world famous Palazzo Morando and Hermitage Museum respectively. In Prague, Blahnik chose Museum Kampa – a gallery of contemporary art.
This location was particularly poignant for the designer as his father was born in the city, and worked as a pharmacist near where the exhibition was staged. In many ways it no surprise that Blahnik’s Czech heritage has influenced his work, as Prague is known for its rich history as shown through its many museums. Partypoker published a list of things to do in Prague featuring some of its wonderful museums including the National Museum, the National Gallery, and the Museum of Communism. All of which, no doubt had a lasting impact on Blahnik as he was finding his way as a fledgling artist.
The final destination before Toronto was Madrid, at the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas. The Spanish designer became well known outside of the fashion industry thanks to Sex and the City's lead character Carrie Bradshaw drooling over Blahnik's masterpieces. However, even before he became known to a bigger audience, Blahnik was a very successful shoemaker. In 1972, he was invited by Ossie Clark -- a popular English fashion designer -- to create shoes for his runway. In 1974, he became the second man to be featured on the cover of UK's Vogue. Among his many awards and honors are the 1998 Shoe Designer of the Year from Footwear News, and Honorary CBE from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
If you are fan of fashion, or art and design, then this exhibition is well worth checking out. WM