Designing is not just about colours and patterns. It is, first and foremost, about understanding your customer. And nobody knows this better than Christian Louboutin. Read more about this divine shoemaker in his exclusive interview to LuxuryFacts
By: Veronique Poles & Soumya Jain
Posted on: April 10, 2011
Is that a shoe or a work of art? Put your feet in it and feel a thrill run up your spine. You are wearing something which you won’t see on anyone else’s feet. And that striking red colour on the underbelly of the shoe almost beckons men for an exciting rendezvous!
I am sure all fashionistas worth their Prada bags know what we are talking about –Christian Louboutin.
When interacting with Mr Christian Louboutin, the first question which comes naturally to us is why red coloured soles? Why not green or yellow or any other colour? “Well, even if one doesn’t like colours, nobody can dislike red. Colours carry symbols, and red colour carries positive values, which is not the same for others colours, specially according to some religions, where they can get a negative consideration,” explains Mr Louboutin logically.
It’s hard to imagine a serious Mr Louboutin – especially with his eyes twinkling mischievously. But after that first answer on the colour red, he quickly turned back to his fun self.
Mr Louboutin is a passionate shoemaker and knows how to please his women - his buyers should we say! He holds intimate parties for his customers where these stylishly dressed women swoon over some more creations of Mr Louboutin while he, the Shoe God, royally moves around his elite clientele and listens smilingly to their ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’!
Odd, isn’t it, that the owner of a cult shoe brand mingles with his numerous buyers? He playfully answers, “When you work for women, it’s always interesting to know what they feel about your creations - reason why I consider it natural to interact with them. And anyway, I have been always surrounded by women!” Who wouldn’t if he creates such heavenly shoes?
Starting with family, he was surrounded by his mother and two sisters. Now he is surrounded by his women customers and celebrity actresses who swear by his creations. The list is endless – Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Naomi Campbell, Tina Turner, Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera – and we haven’t even started with the list of Queens, Princesses and royals!
The beginning of it all
It is very interesting to know how Mr Louboutin came about crafting such masterpieces. “Sketching shoes?” he smiles, “Oh, it happened very early in my life. I love dancers from music hall shows. I feel dancers are like birds - birds of paradise - and then, the only thing which makes them human is shoes! Because even their costumes are natural as they are made of feathers. And besides, I love the noise made by shoes, you know this tapping noise, in particular the ones made by the heels.” He is correct. That ‘clack clack’ of heels says volumes about a woman’s style and confidence.
Mr Louboutin travels the globe and to collect ideas and artifacts which he can use in his shoes. He says everything during his travels inspires him to create something. “When you have your eyes open, there is always something catching your attention. It could be a fruit, the colour of a fruit, which suddenly attracts you, and you keep this colour in your mind. And from this specific moment in your memory comes the starting point of a sketch.” he says passionately.
Is it a surprise then that Mr Louboutin transcends into another world when sketching the shoes? “It is a great feeling of happiness and pleasure. I love sketching, and at the same time there is the feeling of doing my duty, because it is my work as well! And sketching shoes is like a journey. Sketching shoes is full of various feelings and emotions coming together to finalize the project.”
But what is the limit to creativity, to passion, to emotion and to doing your duty? No limits, it seems, for Mr Louboutin. And you know that when you hear him talk about the astounding number of shoes he sketches every year! This never-tiring designer sketches around 600 shoes each season, which comes to 1200 for a year. But only 150 come to the stage of prototypes and then production. “In 20 years of experience, can you imagine the number of shoes I have been sketching? In the beginning, we did not save all the sketches. But we have been doing that for a couple of years now, and they will be part of the company records.” We can foresee collectors ready to push huge wads of money to own these wonderful sketches, which may never be realized, but are art in any case.
So finally, what is the perfect Christian Louboutin shoe? “It is a shoe which will fit either a woman in an evening dress or a naked woman!” says the creator naughtily.
Customers, celebrities and creations
Mr Louboutin’s creations have been much worn by celebrities – without his asking to do so. No, he doesn’t pay them to wear his shoes. “Obviously when celebrities are clicked at a party and they are wearing my shoes, it’s a great exposure. I am very happy, also because I feel that celebrities have a wide choice, and when despite that, they still choose your product - then yes, it’s a true choice - it comes from deep and true desire. Anyway, we will never beg the favour of celebrities to wear our shoes,” he says proudly.
As you would expect, we wondered that doesn’t all the fame and recognition seem magical – to which the maestro says candidly, “It’s a long way to go, lots of work, so I should say it’s a natural way to reward years and years of creation and work.”
Impossible and funny requests? He has seen them all. But instead of laughing them off, he gets inspired by them to do better. He narrates an incident of a customer who once asked Mr Louboutin for something specific. She was attending an event where she knew a very tall woman will be seated next to her at the table. And therefore, she asked him to design a shoe with a specific heel. In those days, it was impossible, because he did not have his own workshop in Paris and he had very limited time to comply with the request. “I really wanted to make her happy, but could not, and I was feeling ashamed of not being able to satisfy her just because of this. I could not fulfill her wish, but then later on, I opened my workshop in Paris! And I can tell you that it was a very inspired decision which took place, in fact, due to an ‘impossible situation’,” he reminisces.
It is reportedly said that author Danielle Steele owns 6,000 pairs of Louboutins! Does that make her the biggest customer of this brand? “Oh, but it is a ridiculous counting, because first of all, she has daughters. Means she does not buy only for herself, but also for her daughters. So I guess, in this case, 6,000 is not even the number of shoes they have in total. But I should say that Mrs Marcos is my biggest customer,” he says referring to Mrs Imelda Marcos, a Filipino politician, the wife of 10th Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, and a woman with quite an exciting life!
For someone whose each piece is unique, special orders is an obvious extension. And Mr Louboutin, for whom luxury means freedom and space, does engage in them time to time, takes personal care of these projects, and quite ambitiously at that - “It takes a long time to finalise a special orders project. Therefore, it requires a good and pleasant relation from both the customer’s side and my side as well, because I believe that to have a true collaboration between the two of us, there has to be a certain charm. And when everything goes well, it becomes an exciting experience.”
The delights coming up
Shoes, shoes everywhere, but not a shoe to wear. Doesn’t he feel bad for himself? A success with women, his creations would surely find a place in the male world as well we think. On asking him the same, we got a surprising answer! “Check under the desk? I have CL men shoes! Yes, there is a collection for men. We have been working on the project for two years now. The first store for men will open in Paris in July - right in front of the women’s store - and the first collection will be deeply inspired by India. For example, one shoe in particular, is named Mikaraja. It will be a kind of shoe made for Maharajas. The embroidery was done in India in collaboration with Lesage workshop.”
And India, that’s not all. We got another surprising answer when we asked about his India plans. “In 2012, we will launch one store in New Delhi and one in Mumbai,” he said cheekily. So get ready to experience the red soles. It will surely add a new dimension to luxury in India!