Manolo Blahnik: ‘I’m sick of the past, it’s the future that speaks to me’


The designer, 79, on reading in the mornings, addiction to labradors, losing his friend and being an impossible child

I was a pest, an impossible child. I knew what I wanted, when and how, and refused to be told otherwise. It’s fair to say little has changed – I’m still as stubborn as I’ve ever been.

Shoes are in my DNA. My mother loved them, my father, too. I was always surrounded by beautiful footwear. Still, my career was an accident – responsible was the late, great Diana Vreeland. We met by chance in New York; I was almost catatonic. She saw my drawings, looked me straight in the eye and said: “Young man, do shoes, you’re very good at it.” Of course, I listened.

I’m a workaholic, I’m at it nonstop. I can’t comprehend the idea of retirement. I’ll never get bored of creating; I’ll never stop exploring new things. To be sitting on the sofa watching TV and eating potato chips? It sounds hellish.

Reading in the mornings is good for the soul. Each page can inspire me in untold ways: the descriptions of food and of fashion; culture and nature. Mum used to read to us constantly. Now I do, too. Movies today are too quick. I need more time in these worlds. I wake up and dive into their pages.

The death of the Queen really broke me. It touched me so tremendously.

I’m quieter than you’d expect. When I talk it’s very fast – few can keep up – and with friends I’ll have vast conversations. But most of the time I am in silence.

Ageing doesn’t scare me, but pain does. Recently I had a fall from the first to ground floor of my house, and broke a leg and an arm. It really shook me. I’m not preoccupied with death itself. Losing others, however, I find difficult. In August I lost my dear friend, the photographer Eric Boman. It’s made me temporarily neurotic.

Happiness? I’m not sure I know what that is. Instead, I look for moments of bliss. For me, that comes from being in the middle of the countryside with my dogs. I’m addicted to my labradors. I love these creatures far more than people.

Tell people to their face if you don’t like something. Don’t do it cruelly, always try to be kind. Honesty is worth the effort. I have a reputation in my factories for being hard to please, but that’s the price of trying to reach perfection.

We have reached a state of mediocrity, it seems to me. Nobody is asking for more, striving for the beautiful, the new and the extraordinary. Fashion doesn’t appeal to me. I like to make things that last, exquisitely crafted.

I’m sick of thinking about the past. It’s the future that really speaks to me. I’m lucky to have done something I’ve adored for so long, and to have people I respect appreciate me. But I’m still to reach my greatest achievements – that’s still to come. I’m incredibly proud of my upcoming collections.

I’m a loner at heart, a solitary soul. I can’t stand crowds or parties. I’ll be on my own for my 80th birthday, and can’t think of a better way to spend it.

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By Saarah

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