With the new documentary ‘The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards’ making waves on Netflix, we caught up with Manolo Blahnik to talk to him about his career, Irish literature, the power of a guilty pleasure and finding inspiration in the everyday.
His name conjures that iconic Carrie Bradshaw dash, skipping over New York’s pavements in a just-out-of-the-box pink pump; or a denim, thigh-high booted Rihanna, who was recently summoned to collaborate with the designer. To describe Manolo Blahnik as a shoemaker (his title, not ours), seems almost insulting.
The 75-year old’s designer shoes are works of art, “creatures” as he calls them, with a transformative power which allows any woman or man who wears them to feel and do extraordinary things. He is one of fashion’s living treasures, a couturier who is loved and revered for the things he makes. And he makes a damn fine shoe. A recent documentary on his life (The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards, available now on Netflix) reveals some interesting facts; he was the first man to ever appear on the cover of VOGUE Magazine; he has, and always will, live alone due to his extreme discomfort around the habits of other humans, and he is perennially dressed to perfection – white gloves, linen suits and a dickie bow. And yes he did make shoes for lizards as a boy from the foil of Cadbury’s chocolate wrappers.
His famous friends include Anna Wintour (naturally), the curator at Museo Nacional Del Prado, Madrid (one of his favourite sources of inspiration). He adores Madonna and is a fan of Amy Winehouse, “She was always a favourite singer of mine. She had the most unique voice – as soon as you heard her sing you knew it was her.” Something not covered in the documentary is his connection with Ireland, “I love Ireland, I have been many times. When I was younger I was friends with Edna O’Brien the writer. I knew her book Girl With Green Eyes by heart – every page!
“I think Irish people have a divine style – classic, refined and elegant.”
Though his collections are colourful, bold, extravagant, at times even otherworldly, this wild and adventurous spirit is not something he practices in his daily life. Instead, he prefers simple pleasures and a routine grounded in solitude and hard work. “I like to wake up very early – I am like clockwork! I have a small breakfast, a glass of fresh orange juice and a slice of beautiful Sicilian bread with San Giuliano Sicilian Marmalades, a very traditional jam also made in Sicily, of course. I head into the office very early and work on my designs. I have plenty of people regularly popping up to see me for things – we manage thousands of things – shop openings, launches etc. There is always something going on, it’s non-stop, I stay in my office until 8pm, often. I have some simple dinner, usually at home – it is rare to meet me in some restaurant or other in the evening.”
Manolo Blahnik sketching shoes in his home in Bath, England.
He is single minded in his obsession, often sketching for hours at a time. It’s a wonder he has any ideas left at all – and yet after all these years, dozens of collections, hundreds of shoes, collaborations, books, a documentary – what is the secret? The real key to his inspiration and energy? “I find inspiration everywhere and in everything. A little guilty pleasure helps too – I recommend eating chocolate.” A creature of habit, indeed.
“I put everything I think is sexy into my shoes.”
Manolo Blahnik’s current collection is available in The Shoe Rooms in our Dublin store. The Netflix documentary ‘The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards,’ is currently available to watch online.