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Louboutin, Christian, 1963-
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Christian Louboutin launched his high-end line of women’s shoes in France in 1991, and the red-lacquered soles have become his signature since 1992. Christian Louboutin has topped the Luxury Institute’s annual Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI) for three years; the brand’s offerings were declared the Most Prestigious Women’s Shoes in 2007, 2008, and 2009 (Figure 3.10). (In 2007, he was followed by Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo, rated second and third, respectively.)
Louboutin was born in Paris, France and as a child, regularly sneaked out of school to watch the showgirls at some Parisian nightclubs. He was fascinated by their costumes and cites this as his main inspiration for becoming a shoe designer: “[The showgirls] influenced me a lot. If you like high heels, it’s really the ultimate high heel—it’s all about the legs, how they carry themselves, the embellishment of the body. They are the ultimate icons.” He was 11 years old when he was struck by a strange drawing on the wall of the Musée des Arts Africains et Oceaniens. It was a woman’s shoe with a sharp heel, crossed out with a red line in a sign, stating that women could not enter while wearing sharp stilettos, for fear of damage to the wood floor. This image stayed in his mind and catapulted his creativity. Later he used this idea in his designs. “I wanted to defy that,” said Louboutin. “I wanted to create something that broke rules and made women feel confident and empowered.”
He knew he wanted to design shoes and became obsessed with sketching and designing them. He decided to pursue his dream although his family opposed his decision to leave school. He claims that his resolve was strengthened after watching an interview on TV with Sophia Loren in which she introduced her sister, saying she had to leave school when she was only 12 but when she turned 50 she got her degree. “Everybody applauded! And I thought, ‘Well, at least if I regret it, I’m going to be like the sister of Sophia Loren!’”
The Launch of Louboutin’s Career
Louboutin got his first apprenticeship at the Folies Bergères and followed it with freelance work for Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Maud Frizon, and Roger Vivier. After a three-year stint in garden design, he opened his own boutique in 1992. By 1995, he was designing for Jean-Paul Gaultier, Chloe, Azzaro, Diane Von Furstenberg, Victor and Rolf, and Lanvin with ready-to-wear and couture creations and helped bring stilettos back into fashion. His designs often featured heel heights of 120mm (4.72 inches) and higher.
Louboutin’s Signature Style
Christian Louboutin’s professed goal is to “make a woman look sexy, beautiful, to make her legs look as long as [he] can.” And while he does offer some lower-heeled styles, Louboutin is most famous for his dressier eveningwear designs incorporating bejeweled straps, bows, feathers, patent leather, and other frills.
In 2002, Louboutin created the shoes for Yves Saint Laurent’s farewell haute couture show. Referred to as “Christian Louboutin for Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture 1962–2002,” it was the only time that Saint Laurent associated his name with that of another designer.
In 2007, he collaborated with David Lynch on the exhibition “Fetish” and created sexy one-of-a-kind shoes; fetish objects of desire, photographed by Lynch. In 2008, the Fashion Institute of Technology paid a tribute to Christian Louboutin by creating a retrospective of his work.
The red soles of his shoes have become a signature (Figure 3.11), and on March 27, 2007, Christian Louboutin filed an application for U.S. trademark protection of this design element. In his U.S. trademark application, Louboutin explains the inception of the red soles: “In 1992 I incorporated the red sole into the design of my shoes. This happened by accident as I felt that the shoes lacked energy so I applied red nail polish to the sole of a shoe. This was such a success that it became a permanent fixture.” As he explains,“[He] did not really choose the red sole. It’s more like the red sole came to [him] and had to stay with [him].”
Christian Louboutin’s designs have gained popularity among socialites and celebrities. A pair of size five black Christian Louboutin shoes once owned by Elizabeth Taylor sold for £10,000 at a charity auction in 2005. His shoes regularly show up on the red carpet at the Oscars and other glamorous events. When asked if there was a famous star on which Louboutin was glad to see his shoes he responded, “I admire Angelina Jolie. I think she is gorgeous, generous, talented, and [a] free-minded person. I am lucky that she is already wearing my shoes.”
Christian Louboutin currently has six boutiques in the United States, two in London, England, one in each of Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Singapore and several in Australia. The first in South America is in Shopping Iguatemi, São Paulo, Brazil. In addition to being sold at 46 signature boutiques internationally, the shoes can be found at Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and Jeffrey and through online stores and boutiques. His shoes demand prices as high as $1,400, and he continues to create shoes for young and talented designers like Roland Mouret and Rodarte as well as his signature. He is famous for his quirky and down-to-earth personality and rides a humble Vespa to work and professes not to own a television. During his prolific career Christian Louboutin has received two FannyAwards from the International Fashion Group in 1996 and 2008.
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http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/no2011198403; Genova, Aneta. "Contemporary Accessory Designer Profiles." In Accessory Design, 58–73. London: Fairchild Publications, 2012. Accessed April 04, 2020. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.pratt.edu:2048/10.5040/9781501303210.ch-003.