Christian Louboutin – in his shoes

November 17, 2013 6:22 am

Iconic shoe designer Christian Louboutin talks about success, staying humble and why he’ll always remain guarded about brand expansion.

Words: Vineetha Menon / Interview: Ahmad Daabas

Christian Louboutin’s rise to fame is a movie waiting to happen in our eyes. From ignoring his studies to sketch shoe designs as a young teen through to travelling the world and getting his first job at the age of eighteen. Later, as a freelance designer, he went on to design women’s shoes for giants in the industry, including Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, before then deciding to give it all up to become a landscape gardener while also contributing to Vogue.

But, like so many creative geniuses of our time, he couldn’t stifle his love for working with shoes and went on to set up his own atelier in 1991. He’s never looked back. While it may have been a risk at the time, Louboutin has nothing to regret today.

“People nowadays want to launch a line just to be bought quickly and look for big investors. When I started, I had this guy who works in fashion and told me to start your own company, you either do it with little money, and after 10 years, you will have more possibility, or you have investors with more money, but you will be less free; you need to explain and justify, Louboutin tells Aficionado. “I thought: I’m young [26 years]. I will start it alone, and do it my own way, and if I fails, it’s my failure not others and I was enthusiastic enough to do it.”

He’s quick to admit that it was never about starting a “business” from the formal, corporate sense of the word.

“I never thought about building a business or building a company…I started in the business with my oldest friends. I started because I wanted to design my own thing. I realised I’m not a good assistant; my enthusiasm is too exhausting for people”, Louboutin explains. He opened his Paris shoe salon in 1991, with Princess Caroline of Monaco famously becoming his first customer.

“I thought if she was not a princess I would have hired her as a sales person. She has an amazing way in explaining my pieces…she’s the best sales person in the world,” he adds.

Over the decades, Louboutin’s success skyrocketed and Hollywood elite, including Angelina Jolie and Madonna among others, are still regularly spotted wearing his shoes with those signature red lacquer soles but then, in 2011, he launched a new men’s collection – elevating the brand to a whole new level.

Louboutin says it’s been “easy” to design shoes for men. “You just need to know that men are different than women. Men’s perspectives are completely different from women in everything, so when I design for men, I’m in a different mood”. When it comes to men, he admits to being inspired by Ian Fleming’s James Bond, and wouldn’t mind designing for the men who’ve played the character, such as Sean Connery and Daniel Craig.

Last year, Louboutin announced a partnership with Batallure Beauty LLC to launch Christian Louboutin Beauté, which is expected to hit the luxury beauty market in 2013, but any and all expansion surrounding his name is one that he remains fiercely protective about.

“I don’t want to mix [my name] with anything. I got lot of proposals to make fashion and clothes, but no way,” he says emphatically. “I [was asked] to do a big women fashion collection and people were shocked when I refused. I said I have my elements and everything in shoes, but then they said I have my name, and I said I don’t want to put my name everywhere. I don’t have this huge ambition; I love to have my name were it should be.”

With more than 50 stores worldwide and an ever-growing fan base, the soft-spoken Louboutin is living proof that success follows those who take risks, work hard, believe in themselves and, above all, stay humble.

“I never thought that there should be a specific goal you have to reach [to be considered a success]. I always take the road that looks more interesting,” he says with a smile. “I’m perfectly happy right now.”

Christian Louboutin on Middle Eastern style:

“Middle eastern men are very traditional. There is a huge variation of style, but what I like about [them] is that they are more clean cut – everything is tailored, even their beard. I think it’s a great thing; it’s an attention to being perfect.”

Louboutin’s men’s boutiques in Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles all share a very special element, the Tattoo Parlor, and now Dubai is part of the elite club. The concept was born from the designer’s admiration for the art of tattooing.

“It started as an idea of a present for a friend, I made a pair of shoes for him embroidered with his tattoo. A lot of my friends have tattoos, I realised that it’s not only just a part of pop culture but a bit of a map on someone’s body, which says something about people. A part of their life, like an armour or a crest. Instead of carrying someone else’s crest on a loafer, I thought it would be a modern armouries , your own crest on your own shoe. Instead of a classical made to measure bespoke shoe, which other men’s shoe brands do very well, this is my modern approach to bespoke.”

The creative service will allow a customer’s own tattoo to be interpreted as fine embroideries on a pair of shoes, creating a truly personalised pair. You can choose from a range of styles from the sporty Louis sneaker to the elegant Henri loafer, a selection of fine fabrics and colours, and three elegant embroidery techniques, which can be used to bring your personal tattoo design to life.

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Richard Green
By Richard Green