Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards
Fashion editor Michael Roberts pays homage to his shoe designer friend Manolo Blahnik in this warm-hearted documentary. The footage may be confined to interviews with an exclusive haute couture clique (including Iman, Naomi Campbell, Anna Wintour, Rihanna and John Galliano), but it is Blahnik’s unrivalled artistry that steals the show. Despite growing up in the isolated Canary Island of La Palma, the designer’s passion for shoes still blossomed. Roberts’s title is endearingly named after Blahnik’s childhood hobby of creating foil shoes for lizards out of chocolate wrappers, never anticipating that 60 years later Andre Leon Talley would be comparing his shoes to a Baudelaire poem.
Blahnik’s smile is infectious, his presence is powerful yet not completely overbearing, and his fervour for fashion is most definitely evident. Although the viewer gains an insight into the demeanour of the chicest cobbler of the 20th century, there is certainly a lack of depth to Roberts’s documentation. Blahnik’s solitary lifestyle is briefly explored as being essential to his creative process; his mastery is achieved by shutting himself off in his terraced house in Bath. We see inside the white-walled, immaculate exterior: shoes are stacked and ordered on shelves, encompassing the room like bricks in the wall. Each shelf has been meticulously labelled by Blahnik, depicting the year and name of his product, whilst replicas of ancient Greek statues and low-maintenance succulents sit quietly in the corner.
David Bailey mocks that the creative’s lack of companionship is due to his uncontrollable neuroticism, recounting one particular tantrum during a photoshoot on the beach a few decades ago; meanwhile Leon Talley claims the man is in fact a sexual being, but channels his sexuality through his creation of provocative women’s shoes. Footage of Blahnik wandering through pastoral, verdant gardens in Sicily reminds him of the familiar La Palma climate of his youth, and he happily reflects on memories of his solitary childhood spent exploring in his garden. Although Roberts’s film suggests Blahnik’s solitude is endearing and necessary to his artistry, his habit in naming each and every pair of shoes he designs suggests otherwise. His shoes are his “creatures”, and he calls each by its assigned name, recalling anecdotes of their first public appearances where photos and video footage accompany an intense gratification in his eyes. Although Blahnik is undoubtedly an artist above all, he is also a father to each stiletto, pump and mule, and his proud contemplations are especially poignant in his first steps away from the fashion world.
Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards is released nationwide on 29th September 2017
Watch the trailer for Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards here: