He’s known for his trademark red soles, killer stillettos and obsession with all things sexy. Although legions of imitators abound, there is no one quite like Christian Louboutin.
Here he chats with ELLE Canada about his inspirations, a woman’s compulsive obsession with footwear and why Princess Diana was his first muse.
ELLE Canada: When did you decide to become a shoemaker?
Christian Louboutin: “When I was 10 years old, I walked by a shop with a sign in the window that warned women not to enter with their stilettos on because the metal spikes would damage the old wooden floor. I became fascinated with the idea that women’s shoes could be transgressive.”
EC: Explain the highly charged and compulsive relationship women have with shoes.
CL: “Shoes do not take anything away from a woman, but they give her an attitude. For example, imagine a photograph of a naked woman who is wearing a pair of pumps. She is still naked. But if she’s wearing a hat instead of shoes, then suddenly it’s a naked woman wearing a hat.”
EC: Do you always look at people’s shoes?
CL: “Yes, it’s automatic.”
EC: Do you judge people by the shoes they are wearing?
CL: “It’s all about the context. Cheap shoes can be great depending on who is wearing them and when. However, riding boots worn in the city, unless you’re actually riding a horse, is something I hate to see.”
EC: That red sole has made your shoes iconic. Where did you get the idea?
CL: “I was designing a collection that was influenced by Andy Warhol and pop art in general. The colours were highly saturated, and when the drawing was finished I knew something was missing. I had a rather useless but charming assistant at the time who used to polish her nails in the shop. I asked to borrow her red nail lacquer and applied it to the sole of the shoe, and it looked marvellous. I originally thought I would change the colour of the sole depending on the shoes, but the red stuck. Even for a woman who doesn’t like to wear a lot of colour, a touch of red is acceptable. It’s also a little cheeky and flirtatious.”
EC: What was the first great shoe you created?
CL: “It was the Love Shoe, which I designed with Princess Diana in mind. I had seen a picture of her at an official function looking down at her feet, very sad. I thought, ‘Imagine if, when she was looking at her shoes, they made her smile instead?’ I meant the shoes to be like two lovebirds, one close to the other, spelling out the word ‘love.’ The shoes were an instant hit, and people began referring to my studio as ‘the love shop.’ I had to keep reordering because everyone wanted them. I ended up surviving off those shoes for a year!”
Photo courtesy of The Bata Shoe Museum