Manolo Blahnik, whose name is now synonymous with glittery stilettos and jewel-encrusted mules, wasn't going to make shoes at all. He was working for the United Nations before he moved to Paris and former magazine editor Diana Vreeland told him, "Young man, make things. Make accessories. Make shoes." And so he did.
Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards, which premiered on September 15, offers a rare glimpse into the life of the 74-year-old Spanish designer, who really did begin his sartorial career by making shoes for lizards out of Cadbury wrappers when he was a child. The film features interviews with industry bigwigs including Anna Wintour, Paloma Picasso, Iman, Rihanna, Naomi Campbell, and Karlie Kloss, who all heap praise onto the designer (Campbell even refers to him as "the king of shoes"). The film shows a man completely consumed by his work: "My joy in life is spending time in the factories, you see," Blahnik says. "It is quite sad to say that, but this is the only thing I love."
Here, seven of
BLAHNIK TOOK A BIG RISK BY DESIGNING SHOES IN THE 1970S.
During the '70s, when footwear was mostly dominated by chunky platforms, and making designer shoes on a large scale was not only
Blahnik in his New York City boutique in 1972
HIS FIRST COLLECTION COULD HAVE BEEN THE END OF HIS CAREER.
In 1971, Blahnik's entire career could have been derailed when he released his first collection, "Quorum Black Magic," with designer Ossie Clark. Because Blahnik learned everything from visiting factories rather than at school, he initially lacked the technical skills to create structurally sound designs. Blahnik created big heels with a thick rubber
PRINCESS DIANA WORE MANOLO BLAHNIKS WITH A CERTAIN FAMOUS DRESS.
One day in 1993, Diana visited Blahnik's boutique in London to buy a Christmas present. According to the shoe designer, the late Princess of Wales usually wore flats and low-heeled shoes because of her height. But she purchased a pair of black pumps, which she paired with a famous LBD (later dubbed the Revenge Dress) that she wore to the Serpentine Gallery’s summer party on the day Prince Charles announced his affair on national television.
HE WAS OVERWHELMED BY HIS SEX AND THE CITY FAME.
The HBO series catapulted the designer into stardom during the '90s, after entire storylines revolved around Carrie Bradshaw's fanatical devotion to Manolo Blahnik shoes. (In one memorable scene from season 3, Carrie gets mugged on the street—when the thief demands that she hands over her Manolo Blahniks, she pleads, "Please sir, they're my favorite pair!") The fame from the show overwhelmed Blahnik, who was shocked that so many people would line up in department stores to get their shoes autographed by him. (In 2000, 30,000 pairs of Manolo Blahniks were sold each year at Neiman Marcus, starting at $500 a pop.)
ONE OF BLAHNIK'S MOST ICONIC COLLABORATORS WAS JOHN GALLIANO.
In 1993, designer John Galliano's financial contract with an investor ended and he was forced to miss a season on the runway. São Schlumberger, a Parisian socialite, came to the rescue and gave him access to her mansion for the show. Galliano's comeback show in Paris involved 17 looks and shoes designed by Blahnik. Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Helena Christensen offered to model for free. Blahnik designed the Agatha shoe—black and white mules with brogue detailing—for the catwalk, which Galliano thought gave the models a "kind of slutty look," he said.
BLAHNIK DESIGNED SHOES FOR SOFIA COPPOLA'S MARIE ANTOINETTE.
When director Sofia Coppola asked herself who Marie Antoinette would have asked to make her shoes, the answer was simple: "She would've asked Manolo." Blahnik looked at old pictures of all of the shoes the French queen actually wore and gave them a modern twist, designing hundreds of custom-made pairs for the movie.
HIS FAMOUS FANS RANGE FROM OLD HOLLYWOOD ICONS TO NEW POP QUEENS.
During an interview for the film, model Iman says, "There is no ‘Manolo Blahnik.’ It's Manolo. Every woman knows it. My daughter knows what a Manolo is." Blahnik's shoes were coveted by everyone from Lauren Bacall and Bianca Jagger to Jane Birkin and Rihanna, who all praised them for being glamorous and chic, yet still comfortable enough to walk in. In another memorable scene from the film, Blahnik is seen collaborating with Rihanna, whose face lights up once she sees the denim wash, crotch-high boots dreamed up by Blahnik. "I love a shoe that can make another girl jealous," the singer says.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.