Nick Leith-Smith Architects’ long-standing creative partnership with Manolo Blahnik continues with the brand’s largest global outlet to date in one of the world’s most celebrated department stores, Harrods. Designed by the architects in close collaboration with Manolo Blahnik himself, the new Manolo Blahnik London is located within the store’s fifth floor ‘Shoe Heaven,’ a 42,000 square foot salon dedicated to fine footwear.
The Manolo Blahnik unit occupies an exclusive space within the store’s west tower, set apart from the rest of the floor with its own dedicated staircase and entrance. The concession has been designed to resemble the layout and atmosphere of a grand salon. The impression is of a domestic space writ large, evoking the interiors of a grand fin-de-siècle mansion and inspired in particular by the architecture of the virtuoso Austrian architect Josef Hoffman. Hoffman was one of the leading proponents of European Art Nouveau and one of the founders of the Vienna Secession, a group of artists, architects and designers who embraced a sensuous approach to the integration of craft and decoration into design.
As one enters the new salon, the Hoffman influence is immediately apparent, thanks to the strong geometric forms used to transform the ceiling, furniture, timber screens and display areas into a precisely engineered composition of vertical lines and diagonal forms. Shoes are presented on sliding library ladders that line the walls, while custom-built furniture is matched with vintage pieces.
The domestic qualities of the space are charged with refined geometry and rich colours, while the seductive sight of an array of Manolo Blahnik shoes fills the display shelves around the walls. These splashes of colour are echoed in the bold upholstery of the chairs and sofas. Nick Leith-Smith has used a selection of original Danish furniture from the early and mid nineteenth century to furnish the space. The pieces were originally sourced from London dealers by Manolo Blahnik and the architect for the company’s first London stores and have been re-upholstered in bright colours. These hues are also used in Blahnik’s own designs for silk lampshades and chandeliers, which along with the bespoke metalwork, were crafted specially for the project.
Nick Leith-Smith Architects and Manolo Blahnik have built an enticing realm that reflects the strong brand values and identity of this iconic shoe designer.