“Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes For Lizards”

Meet Manolo Blahnik

Amos Lassen

Manolo Blahnik is a self-confessed ‘cobbler’ and the man regarded by most influential fashion figures as ‘the best shoe-maker of the 20th and 21st centuries. I understand that Manolo only agreed to making this film if it was more about those who testify to his genius and not about himself. Director Michael Roberts does just that but he also manages to have Manolo, who is now 74, appear on the screen and we see him as quite an eccentric character who is obsessed with becoming the new Cecil Beaton who was famed for his designs for dressing film stars.

Manolo was born in the Canary Islands. His father was a wealthy Czech pharmacist and his mother was a Spanish plantation owner. They educated their son to be a diplomat, but he went to London and got his first job in fashion managing a boutique. Just two years later, in 1970, during a chance meeting with Diana Vreeland in NY (who looked through his portfolio of sketches) took him to his focus of designing footwear.

In 1972 he designed shoes for Ossie Clark’s runway show, which Blahnik admits could have been the end of his career. He had   harmed several of the models as he had naively omitted to put steel in the heels making the shoes pretty but dangerous. However they were a big success and soon he was designing shoes for a whole coterie of leading British designers of the day.

America beckoned him and his creations were carried by Bloomingdales and it did not take long before his clientele was a who’s who list of fashion celebrities. Of course, he received a tremendous push by “Sex and the City”. Today women are happily paying $1000 or more for a pair of his shoes and Blahnik lives the life of a semi-reclusive English aristocrat.  He is a man who loves fame but who also avoids any personal intimate relationships beyond his collection of close friends. These include Blahnik’s very good friends John Galliano and David Bailey, Naomi Campbell, Paloma Picasso,  André Leon Talley and Rihanna, and they all pay tribute to him here.

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