When Rafael Mantesso’s ex-wife left him with nothing but an empty apartment and their Bull Terrier – named after her favourite shoe designer Jimmy Choo, she couldn’t have predicted that Jimmy would go on to become a global instagram sensation – bagging a designer collaboration with his namesake – but that’s exactly what he did!
Hot off the very glamorous heels of his collection for Jimmy Choo, we caught up with 32 year old creative director Rafael and his five year old model and muse, Jimmy from their home in Brazil.
You were inspired to start illustrating and photographing Jimmy after your divorce – how did the idea come about?
It all started with my empty apartment. After the divorce I decided not to buy any furniture because I planned to buy another place, but I hated the echo and the blank white walls. I started painting on canvas and drawing a lot. Jimmy was always by my side, then one day I started drawing around him and it all came from there.
Has Jimmy has helped you through difficult times in your life?
Yeah, Jimmy has changed my life completely. He is my partner in crime and my inspiration – I express myself through him. I encourage myself to become an artist as a career because of him. He is my work, my friend and my pool of happiness. Every time I come home, he welcomes me like one of The Beatles. How many people do you know that do the same?
When you first started photographing Jimmy, did you know he would become such a sensation?
No, but since the first image I decided that he would be always the star. I will never use colours in my illustrations and never need to explain the photos with subtitles. I want the message to be clear and powerful, without the need for words.
How did the collaboration with Jimmy Choo come about and how was it working with them?
They are amazing and inspiring. Sandra Choi (Jimmy Choo Creative Director) was so enchanted by the drawings that she approached me directly. We talked about lots of ideas and she decided to invite me to illustrate a collection of accessories for them. Off course I accepted – it was like a dream come true.
Jimmy looks like a professional in front of the camera – how do you get him to hold still and pose for you?
He loves to be the centre of my attention. I just put him in place and ask him to freeze for 30 seconds. He understands that I need him to stay still just for a short time and he trusts me. I am just a guy with a camera shooting him and sharing him with the world.
Why did you choose a Bull Terrier for a pet?
The strength, the expression and the way they demonstrate their love for you is unique. There is no breed that loves their owner as much as Bull Terriers.
Does Jimmy get special ‘celebrity’ treatment now!?
The only thing thats changed is: now he sleeps with me.
What can we expect to see in your upcoming book, A Dog Named Jimmy?
Lots of love. The book is dedicated to him – it is my way of thanking him. I’m giving back all the love that he gives me by sharing him with the world.
What’s next for you and Jimmy?
I recently found my life partner and have fallen in love. Now it’s time to find a love for Jimmy too.
5 MINUTES WITH JIMMY
Describe yourself in three words:
Kind, needy, jealous
Who would play you in a film about your life?
Who is your ideal woman?
Shorter than me and white
What’s your favourite treat?
Your worst habit?
I fart during my sleep
The best thing about your new-found fame?
People don’t cross the street afraid of me anymore. They cross to take pictures of me.
Follow Rafael and Jimmy on Instagram @rafaelmantesso. A Dog Named Jimmy is due out in September 2015 – pre-order it now at amazon.co.uk.