Ooooh, Christian Louboutin. Not only he is the master behind my favourite shoes, but he is also a charming human being.
No wonder women fall in love with his shoes; after seeing him talk, I can certainly say he does manage to transmit his captivating personality to footwear. If I was a fan before, this talk took it to another level.
My love for his designs come from a long time ago. This led to the creation of the shoe fund to get my hands on them. My first pair, Rolando, is so special to me I rarely wear it. I really take the Decollete and Pigalle out more often, as they feel they are more replaceable than that very important first pair.
Monsieur Louboutin says he was always very grown up for his age – he left home when he was only 12.5 years of age to explore his passions in life. He didn’t like school very much.
The first encounter with heels was a sign at a museum. They were not shoes as he knew it, and that drawing did come to life later when he saw a woman wearing stilettos and understood that sign. Captivated by the shoes, the then boy followed her.
So where does the coveted red sole comes from? Well… in 1993, Christian was comparing the Pensée (inspired by Andy Warhol’s “Flowers”), part of the brand’s third season, with his sketches and he noticed the shoes, when looked at from the back, looked dark – when it was in fact designed to be very colourful. Something was missing.
His assistant was in the studio, painting her nails and he grabbed the bottle, despite her protests (as she had only two nails done), and painted the dark sole in the striking shade of red.
To the day, Christian likes to compare the final product with his drawings, and takes pleasure in seeing them “animated”.
On the collections… he needs total concentration to create. He isolates himself for two weeks to design the majority of a collection. For the summer, he flees to Egypt, which he describes as his homeland, and being surrounded by the heat helps the creative process. Conversely, to create the winter collection, he heads to the north of France (with “Scotland-like” cold). It’s an immersive experience.
The process involves, drawing, sleeping on it, re-drawing and when they are ready to go to production, Christian sleeps in an apartment built on top of his factory in Italy. He makes corrections, keeps a close eye – and just plays with it.
Still on the craft process, he adds “a shoe is almost like a face”. A good structure is what really makes it beautiful and compares the heels, balance and front to the bone structure of the shoe. The rest is makeup.
Choosing a favourite shoe is hard, as he loves different ones for different reasons (interesting creation process, a person who inspired it) and each shoe takes you to a different space.
Having to choose, he mentioned the Pigalle as a highlight.
Christian was fascinated with showgirls – he saw them as exotic birds, and then came the wish to design shoes for them. He was in fact an apprentice at Folies Bergère.
About working with Roger Vivier, to whom he was a type of admin assistant, he said he just wanted to see him at work, and that was enough; when you admire someone’s work, you don’t necessarily want to add your touch to it.
His business happened, as he puts it, as a “happy accident”. After moving from shoes to being a landscaper (which he gave up for being too impatient), two friends supported him in following his passion and he opened his own shoe shop.
Priceless advice came in the shape of not having a recipe for success; feel free to follow your own path, with your own rules and sometimes no preconceived ideas. And of course, love what you do.
I think my “aaaw” moment came when he mentioned he feels responsible for all the people working for him, saying it is quite scary to think about what would happen to them if something happened to him. Love.
A truly inspiring talk to remind us that exceptional talent, raw passion, hard work and risk-taking are really the path to success.
My only regret? Not trying to get my shoes autographed at the Q&A session. Maybe next time…