The cobbler to the stars is the subject of a new documentary and exhibition. We ask what they reveal about him
New documentary offers insight into the colorful world of Manolo Blahnik
One could hardly hope for a more illustrious fan club. “He is the king of shoes,” says Naomi Campbell. “I have always loved Manolo Blahniks,” says Rihanna. “He’s a poet. He’s up there with Baudelaire,” says André Leon Talley, former editor-at-large for Vogue. And, the ultimate endorsement: “I can’t remember the last time I wore anybody else’s shoes. I just don’t even look at them,” says Anna Wintour.
A documentary charting the life and work of shoe designer Manolo Blahnik is due for release on September 15. The eccentricity of the subject is perfectly encapsulated in the name of the film: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards. He did, apparently, as a young boy. The one-and-a-half-hour documentary is directed by Michael Roberts, filmmaker, photographer and style editor-at-large for Vanity Fair, and features cameos by all of the style-savvy individuals mentioned above, along with a slew of other high-profile fans, including Rupert Everett and Karlie Kloss.
For those who can’t wait until September for their Manolo fix, the Kampa Museum in Prague is presenting The Art of Shoes, a travelling exhibition dedicated to Blahnik’s work, from August 11 until November 12. The exhibition will feature 212 pairs of shoes, as well as sketches by Blahnik. “The opportunity to have an exhibition in Prague is very personal to me,” says the designer. “My dad was Czech, so I’m looking forward to working with people who have the same roots as I do and draw from the same well of inspiration.”
As one of the event’s sponsors, Four Seasons Prague is offering a special Manolo Blahnik Package, which includes accommodation and tickets to the exhibition. A print of a sketch of a Manolo Blahnik shoe, part of a collection created especially for the exhibition, is also included as a memento.
Blahnik is something of a legend in fashion circles, and was one of the first men to grace the cover of British Vogue. Born in the Canary Islands, he moved to Paris in 1965 to become a set designer. In 1971, he settled in London and began making shoes, opening his first shop in Chelsea in 1973. He has always crafted footwear of unparalleled artistry, but a certain Ms Carrie Bradshaw can be credited with propelling his shoes into the mainstream consciousness. So integral were Blahnik’s shoes to the Sex in the City series that they were almost a character in themselves. When Carrie gets mugged, it is her Manolos that she most laments losing; battling loneliness on her 35th birthday, it is her Manolos that offer solace; and when her long-term on-off love interest Mr Big does finally propose, it is with a pair of cobalt blue Hangisi pumps by Manolo Blahnik, rather than a ring.
By all appearances, Blahnik the man is as colourful and flamboyant as the shoes he creates. “I was not a very quiet boy, no. Never was, never will be,” the 74-year-old designer says in the trailer for the new documentary. “When I don’t like something, I just give hell,” he also reveals.