Creativity Is More Important Than the Bottom Line, Says Manolo Blahnik’s CEO

March 7, 2018, 8:37 AM UTC
Fortune Brainstorm Design 2018
027 Fortune Brainstorm Design 2018 Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 Singapore 15:00 - 15:20 LEADING A LEGACY How do you protect an extraordinary design legacy while leading the family business into the 21st century? Kristina Blahnik, who left her architecture practice in 2009 to join her uncle’s company, will discuss what’s next for one of the world’s most celebrated shoe brands. Kristina Blahnik, Chief Executive Officer, Manolo Blahnik Interviewer: Tony Chambers, Wallpaper* Photograph by Stefen Chow/Fortune
Stefen Chow/Fortune

An architect by training and profession, Kristina Blahnik, CEO of iconic high-fashion shoe brand Monolo Blahnik, is giving the boot to the priorities of the average corporate chief.

“Commercial success is just a byproduct of protecting our core values,” she told the Brainstorm Design conference in Singapore on Wednesday. “If our bottom line has been impacted, that is a result of the value we put on creativity. Creativity is number one.”

Other values that are integral to the Blahnik business and brand, she said, include humility, quality, modesty, respect and creating beauty. They are the values her uncle Manolo displays while he designs.

Since she took over as CEO in 2009, the Manolo Blahnik bottom line has definitely been impacted – but in positive ways. Turnover has increased eightfold, revenues have increased six times over, and the brand has opened 16 new stores.

But she has said she does not advocate growth for growth’s sake. Obsession with numbers can destroy a brand, she says.

When she was asked to take over as CEO by her family, she wasn’t sure her background as an architect would be helpful. But she discovered that her skills sets were easily transferable. As an architect she couldn’t mix cement or lay electrical lines, but she knew how to design the structure. As a CEO she knows the structure and organization she wants and has the expert to carry it out.

To ensure that her uncle’s design legacy endures, she said, she does not think in five-year plans.

“We think in 500-year plans. My purpose in life is to protect his legacy. That is what we’re about.’’

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