As we find ourselves at the end of New York Fashion Week (and eagerly anticipating its resumption in London tomorrow), there is no better time to check out the documentary about the fairy godfather of the fashion industry, “Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards.”
No runway outfit is complete without a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s parading down the catwalk and this biopic, directed by fashion journalist Michael Roberts, delves deep into the history of the man who is considered an artistic genius.
Before Manolo Blahnik was designing shoes for the fashion elite, he got his start in the backyard of his parent’s house on a remote Spanish Canary island creating shoes for lizards. His material of choice? The foil wrappers of Cadbury chocolates. Even as a child, his passion for design was unwavering and uniquely his own.
Hard work and his outgoing personality made Manolo’s rise to fame a relatively simple one. He showed his first collection in 1971, opened his first shop in London in 1973, and quickly solidified himself as the world’s most famous luxury shoemaker.
His influence jumped from the runway to the small screen, most notably as the one item in Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe that she was devastated to give up…even at gunpoint in this infamous “Sex and the City” scene (showing that women were willing to hand over their purses, money, what have you, but don’t touch the Manolos!). Manolo’s impact on the film industry is also explored in the film, an example being Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.” He modernized the typical shoe of the French Revolution and gave Kirsten Dunst a feminine yet historically accurate pink ruffled kitten heel (which costume designer Milena Canonero won the Oscar for in 2007 for Best Achievement in Costume Design).
…Women were willing to hand over their purses, money, what have you, but don’t touch the Manolos!
The documentary “Manolo” reflects the man himself– upbeat, fun, and not taking itself too seriously. Fashion enthusiasts and historians alike will find appeal in this charming portrait of a man whose work ethic is admirable and reputation is completely deserved. It is not without glitches from a technical aspect, unfortunately, as it is difficult to hear the interviews over the music at certain points. I found myself having to go back and rewatch a couple of times (a luxury audiences in theaters won’t have).
“Manolo” doesn’t reinvent the wheel in its delivery, it stands as a typical fashion documentary. Interviews with the usual suspects– Anna Wintour, André Leon Talley, Rihanna, and John Galliano– paint a colorful portrait. What makes this film stand apart from the rest, however, is the man himself. Watching Manolo sketch on camera, wearing pristine white gloves and bubbling with energy, seems like a privilege to observe. For those who like to indulge in the escapism and fantasy of fashion, “Manolo” is for you.
“Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards” is not rated. 89 minutes. Opening this Friday at The Nuart.