PARIS, France — Manolo Blahnik is returning to his second home, in a manner of speaking. The footwear designer is opening the brand’s first-ever boutique in Paris, the second city Blahnik lived in after moving from his home in the Canary Islands.
Set to open in 2019, the store will be housed in the historic Café Corazza at the Palais-Royal. The location may not be the capital’s shopping hotspot, but it was a strategic decision, said Kristina Blahnik, the brand’s chief executive (also Manolo’s niece). “You can’t beat the beauty of Palais-Royal, and people like destinations and experiences. The young generation wants to invest in these experiences and it’s something we want to continue putting resources into.”
For Blahnik, the new store represents a “home” for shoes and somewhere for customers to come spend time. “It’s about visiting, as opposed to shopping,” she said. Taking a similar approach to brands such as Aquazurra and Stella McCartney, the space is designed to feel less like a traditional store and more like an apartment or a living room.
It’s about visiting, as opposed to shopping.
The brand will also open a boutique on Omotesando Avenue in Tokyo, one of the city’s luxury shopping streets, and a store in Taipei, in partnership with Bluebell Japan. The Asia-Pacific region is a particularly important market for the brand — Chinese customers alone accounted for 32 percent of global luxury spending in 2017, according to Bain & Company — which has always been popular among Asian customers, according to Blahnik, who, since joining as chief executive in 2009, has overseen collaborations with Rihanna and Vetements and grew the brand’s monobrand retail to 17 standalone stores and over 300 points of sale worldwide.
Manolo Blahnik’s business expansion, which recently included the launch of men’s footwear and three new factories outside of Florence and Venice in Italy, comes after turnover grew by 142 percent from 2015 to 2017, while operating profit increased by 36 percent. Meanwhile, rivals like Aquazzura have been undertaking rapid store expansion and plans to launch men’s footwear, while Christian Louboutin is focused on growing its beauty business, having signed a global licensing agreement with Puig.