LONDON — Step aside, Iris Apfel — there’s a new peacock set to strut onto the big screen in all his sartorial and creative splendor: Manolo Blahnik.
“Manolo (The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards),” a documentary about the work, life and inspirations of the master shoemaker and aesthete, is currently in production and set to debut at the Venice Film Festival in September.
Directed by Michael Roberts, the British illustrator, photographer, fashion writer and longtime friend of Blahnik’s, the film is being produced by Nevision Studios One Limited.
Buzz around the project has already begun, with Content Media, which acquired the worldwide sales rights, planning to introduce the documentary to distributors in Berlin during the European Film Market next month.
For Blahnik, however, appearing on screen was not a long-held dream.
“Oh no, no, no! I love movies desperately, but I have no pretentions or illusions of me being an object of the camera. I am a mess in front of the camera. I said to Michael the only condition is that I don’t want to be filmed too much because some days I’m run down or sick — like I am today,” said the designer, who’s been suffering from a cold.
“I preferred all the people talking about me — if they want to. This is what the movie is about, it’s like a documentary seen through the eyes of other people, although I’m there, yes,” he told WWD.
It’s an intimate portrait, said the designer: “It’s about my work, yes, and about who I am. It’s about personal things, although I don’t even know what you call personal anymore. It’s not a vanity project because it was not my idea and I’m a very private person. But you arrive at a certain age and then, well, everything is OK.”
Those curious about how Blahnik works will get to see him drawing and talking about his designs in his studio in Bath, England. “Like a tap of water I just keep going, going and going,” said the designer, adding that he’s filmed dressed in all his famously colorful regalia — natty suits, colored bow ties and slimline footwear. “I am who I am, and that’s how I appear on the camera.”
Blahnik said Roberts came to him about two years ago with the idea. “One day he came along and said, ‘Let’s make a film.’ I said ‘What?!’ I didn’t have time to get interested. You know how I am, I just say ‘Well, let’s do it. If you want to film do it. And like everything I do, nothing has been prepared.”
Roberts, who’s spent his life in the media, clearly knew what he was doing: “Having known Manolo for over 30 years, I can say he is a multifaceted intellectual and romantic whose engaging mind and ingenious work is made for entertaining cinema,” he said.
The timing was ideal on a variety of levels: Blahnik is slowly and steadily expanding the business together with his niece Kristina Blahnik, the company’s chief executive officer, and the past year has been a big one — with more to come.
He published a book with Rizzoli in September, and the same month was honored in New York by the Couture Council Artistry of Fashion for his long-standing dedication to craftsmanship and design.
Last fall, the brand launched a capsule collection of bejeweled clutch bags, with an eye to expanding further in the category and doing practical day bags as well.
Next week, Blahnik will open his second London store in Mayfair’s Burlington Arcade. The 1,000-square-foot, double fronted unit will stock women’s and men’s shoes from the seasonal collections as well as the brand’s classic pieces. The recently launched collection of bags will also be sold. The new store comes some 44 years after the designer opened his first store on Old Church Street in Chelsea.
Much of the filming was done in Palermo and Taormina, Sicily, two places beloved of Blahnik. None of it, however, took place in his native Canary Islands, because filming there was too expensive.
“In Palermo there are palm trees and banana trees, and it looks like home — so it was OK,” he said. There are shots of Taormina’s Greek temples — “one of my mad obsessions,” an interview with Mary Beard, the Cambridge Classical scholar, and another one that takes place at Palazzo Tomasi di Lampedusa, the late writer’s home, in Palermo.
Blahnik said the film also recalls his book, “Fleeting Gestures and Obsessions,” which was published last year. It covers more than 40 years of his history from the moment he was discovered by Diana Vreeland in 1971, when she was editor of American Vogue.
The film will also feature interviews with young people who admire Blahnik’s work, and others who’ve known him for decades including Jamie Prieto, his longtime London shop manager; Naomi Campbell; Kate Moss, and Penelope Tree.
Others set to appear include Paloma Picasso; Candace Bushnell; Charlotte Olympia Dellal; Iman; Rihanna; David Bailey; Isaac Mizrahi; Joan Burstein — one of his first employers; Beard, and Rupert Everett.
Asked about the impression he’d like the film to leave on audiences, Blahnik said: “Frankly, I couldn’t care less what people see in me at all. I would like to be seen like a human being who does something that he adores — that’s all.”