Behind The Manolo Blahnik Archives

A close look at the creative process of Rōnin Amsterdam’s “A New Way of Walking,” recognised with a Lovie Award for Best Individual Editorial Experience.

In honour of Manolo Blahnik reaching its 50th year, design agency Rōnin Amsterdam created a digital archive cataloguing the brand’s legendary history. The Manolo Blahnik Archives is an interactive and immersive deep cut of their most iconic collections. It contains five virtual galleries featuring sketches that were never released—each with its own soundscape, layout and design.

The imaginative project was recognied in 2022 with Gold for Best Individual Editorial Experience and Silver in Fashion & Beauty. We spoke with Rōnin Amsterdam to find out how they made their Lovie win happen.


To start, please tell us a little about the project and the inspiration behind it.

In 2021, the globally renowned footwear brand, Manolo Blahnik, reached a big milestone of 50 years as a family company. To celebrate, they wanted to create an exhibition to honour the legacy of Manolo Blahnik, share their latest collection, and showcase never-seen-before sketches.

With the uncertainty about Covid-19 still lingering and with people still stuck indoors, the need to translate the physical into the virtual was more appropriate than ever before.

We set out to present the exhibition in an immersive interactive experience—translating the physical experience into a virtual gallery space. The website, A New Way of Walking, was just as fascinating and informative as a physical exhibition.

What did the process of creating the Manolo Blahnik Archives look like?

The Manolo Blahnik team, under CEO Kristina Blahník, was looking for a creative partner that spoke the same design language and could help them develop and produce a virtual experience.

We produced A New Way of Walking in close cooperation with the Manolo Blahnik team, including Kristina Blahník and Judith Clark, a leading fashion curator and exhibition-maker based in London.

“From the outset, Ronin mastered the visual sensitivity of our brand,” says Kristina Blahník. “They invested time and dedication every step of the way to achieve our vision. It was a real collaborative process and a perfect interpretation of a dream.”


What themes or schools of thought influenced the direction of your project?

The idea is inspired by the phygital design trend—where experiences combine physical and digital elements to create more immersive and engaging user experiences. It blends the strengths of both the physical and digital worlds by using digital technology to enhance physical environments and vice versa.

The Manolo Blahnik experience is a great example of this concept. It effectively integrated detailed information about the shoe archive with the look and feel of a physical gallery space.

Who did you have in mind as you were developing the archive? And what about the project do you think resonated so much with your audience?

Previously, we created a virtual experience for Vredestein Tires. For the Manolo Blahnik experience, we wanted to elevate the feeling of immersion by adding a layer of interactivity and fluent free-roaming navigation. The idea of the user effortlessly walking and looking around was top of mind.

The experience expressed the Manolo Blahnik brand and its unconventional approach to design. This approach resonated with the brand’s fans. The mix of immersive and informative layers to the experience gave people an insight into the creative mind of Manolo Blahník.


Why did you choose to enhance the archive with a gallery-style layout on the homepage? What impact did this layout and design choice have on the project?

To create a virtual exhibition, you must make it look, feel and sound like you are walking into an actual room. We took this on board with our approach, including sound and lighting as part of the experience to make it as realistic as possible. Our designs made it easy to navigate the exhibition on any device.

We also included a guided tour option that took visitors through the most exemplary archive pieces and the story behind them. Judith Clark narrated each story to give the background on the designs and their inspiration.

Did you run into any issues or troubles while developing this project? What steps did you take to overcome them?

We could not create 3D models of the shoes since most have very extravagant and detailed designs. It would be costly and time-consuming to recreate them in 3D. However, the shoes are an essential part of the 3D experience, so we had to figure out how to photograph the archive pieces to feel realistic within the virtual gallery.

We worked together with the Manolo Blahnik archive team in the US to photograph them piece by piece, and then our development team built a custom plugin that made it possible to extract the shoes and create a 3D style model.


Why did you choose a website as the medium for the project instead of others? How did this medium fit your narrative and goal for the project?

Manolo Blahnik wanted to create a digital archive of the sketches that would be accessible to everyone. Instead of a physical exhibition, a web-based experience would ensure that it would be accessible to customers and fans all across the globe.

With travel restrictions still active because of Covid-19 and the uncertainty of how everything would unfold—the virtual exhibition allowed the brand to launch its new collection in an exciting way.

What digital tools were instrumental in bringing the project together?

We worked with Adobe Creative Suite, Sketch, C4D, Vue, Three.js and GSAP. We also created custom tools for the experience, for example, the shoe masking tool and a 3D portrait projector.


How has your Lovie-winning project impacted your work in this field?

We’ve received a lot of praise from peers, brands and agencies worldwide, which has helped generate more awareness about our work. The project has also had a positive business impact, with the project helping to acquire new clients. We also continue to work closely with the Manolo Blahnik team to enrich and update the Manolo Blahnik Archives now and in the future.


What does winning a Lovie Award mean to you?

It’s been an absolute honour to be awarded a Gold and Silver Lovie by a jury of peers and industry leaders. For us, it means a lot that our work is viewed by many as exemplary among all the other inspiring entries.


Have what it takes to align your work with visionary digital creatives like Rōnin Amsterdam? Enter the 13th Annual Lovie Awards to stand with the vanguard of European Internet.