Although we see a great deal of the legendary shoe designer Manolo Blahnik in this enchanting profile on him, he evidently had only agreed to the project with director Michael Roberts if he kept the cameras primarily on the impressive list of fashion heavyweights and celebrities who lined up to testify that Blahnik is a genius. Roberts was right not to restrict the times that the 74 year old Blahnik appears on the screen, as he cuts such a figure as the charming eccentric figure he is with his obsession with re-incarnating Cecil Beaton.
Born in the Canary Islands to a wealthy Czech pharmacist and a Spanish plantation owner who educated their son to be a Diplomat, but he soon forsake any idea of that by decamping to London and getting his first job in fashion managing a boutique. Just a mere two years later, in 1970, a chance meeting with the great Diana Vreeland in NY who looked through his portfolio of sketches, and insisted that now on he focus on designing footwear.
He did just that and in 1972 he designed shoes for Ossie Clark’s runway show, which Blahnik admits could have been the end of his career, and also harmed several of the models as he had naively omitted to put steel in the heels making the shoes pretty but perilous. However they were a big success and soon he was designing shoes for a whole coterie of leading British designers of the day such as Zandra Rhodes and Jean Muir.
Then America beckoned and thanks to Bloomingdales his exquisite creations started to grace the feet of an impressive list of clientele that even includes Anna Wintour, who still says even now she will not look at any shoes that are not Blahniks. Then when Sex & The City’s Carrie Bradshaw seemed to name check him every week, there was no looking back.
While the nouveau fashion world clamors to make his footwear an integral part of their wardrobes and happily paying $1000 or more for a pair, Blahnik lives the life of a semi-reclusive English aristocrat from the early part of the last Century living in a grand regency house in Bath. He is a man who loves to be feted by the world, yet has clung to his virginity with a passion as he avoids any personal intimate relationships beyond his collection of close friends.
The collection of talking heads that Roberts rounded up, included Blahnik’s very good friend John Galliano and David Bailey, Naomi Campbell, Paloma Picasso, André Leon Talley and Rihanna, and were all genuinely happy to pay tribute to this man who they obviously both admire and love.
The word genius is bandied around a lot these days to the extent that it has almost been devalued, however Blahnik is one who so richly deserves the title. Plus, thanks to Robert’s affectionate profile, we now know he is a disarmingly charming one too.
P.S. The title of the documentary refers to his childhood which will make sense when you see the film.