Inside Manolo Blahnik’s New Tokyo Flagship by Nick Leith-Smith
Nick Leith-Smith has designed more than 60 retail outlets for Manolo Blahnik, from exhibitions to new-build pavilions, but it’s safe to say that that in their 20-year working relationship he’d never received a brief quite like the one for Blahnik’s new flagship in Tokyo’s famed Omotesando district: “Bauhaus Sanitarium.”
“I was immediately excited,” Leith-Smith says. “We embarked on a rigorous research process, and the brief came to life in the form of a design that was somewhat clinical, but minimalistic and functional.” The 1,800-square-foot space, contained with a concrete slab structure, incorporates a ground floor women’s department with a ceiling that needed to remain exposed, due to regulations. “It became an opportunity for us to play with the concept of utilitarian character of our concept,” Leith-Smith explains. “We found a solution that would also become a design feature in its own right, by using galvanized steel to form a slatted screen across the ceiling. The screens taper up to the glazed front façade to complete the retail space with dramatic effect.”
Manolo Blahnik’s New Tokyo flagship is Minimalist and Functional
Upstairs has its own drama: A gallery corridor is bound by polished steel on one side, and plush ribbed padding on the other; elsewhere, a wall secrets a whiskey cabinet. But it’s the window displays that truly intoxicate Leith-Smith. “The suspended shelf system,” he says, “creates a playful illuminated structure. It works so beautifully with Manolo Blahnik’s collection. The craftsmanship provides a contemporary stage for the intricate colorful collections to be presented, and for customers to marvel at.” It’s enough to drive even the most devoted Bauhaus—and Blahnik—fan crazy.