Manolo Blahnik glares out a window of his high-rise headquarters just off the King's Road in Chelsea at the Holiday Inn across the way. "If there was an earthquake, I'd be waiting outside for it to collapse," he snaps. The ugliness of the modern world is a constant assault on Blahnik's sensibilities, everything from the "cheap, suburban" interior of his offices ("I can't change anything," he grouses) to the bunch of lilies, newly purchased from a local supermarket, in the reception area. "I'm an old bag—I like old things," he says by way of excuse. He's his mother's son: At the age of 97, with cataracts, she was still sharp enough to notice on the television that ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown's fingernails were chewed and dirty. "Can't anyone in England tell that man to have a manicure?" she wailed.