Chatting with Christian Louboutin
By Laurie Brookins
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: The boutique's exterior; Maykimay Strass clutch; the store's interior; Liv zebra clutch. BELOW: Christian Louboutin.
You can't stump one of the world’s most sought-after shoe designers on the subject of cinema. Like so many of Christian Louboutin’s interests—which range from the artisans of Damascus to the flying trapeze to his homes in Portugal, Egypt and Syria—his passion for film knows no bounds. “When I bought the Hollywood store, being a French person, of course I thought of this as the capital of cinema and in a way the capital of glamour,” he says, referring to his latest boutique, a refurbished stand-alone house on Robertson Boulevard. “So my idea was to design a remembrance of Hollywood studios. I started with a gate like the Paramount Pictures gate, and then there is also a wonderful staircase that’s very Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard.”
That he responds to such high drama should be no surprise to any devotee of Louboutin’s iconic red soles. His are shoes made for an entrance, for delivering a line either wistful or withering, and then exiting without a single glance back. Confidence, power and sex are elements as integral to each Louboutin design as the decision to include one platform (or two) and whether such inclusion can result in a stiletto heel that towers to almost seven inches. The resulting recipe, Louboutin notes, is ideal for this market. “LA is a great place for my designs,” he says. “Everyone drives in LA, so there is no limit to the height that women will tolerate. They love the highest heel possible, which is wonderful for me.”
Louboutin has been inspired by the heel and its imagery since childhood, when he noticed a sketch of a women’s shoe on a Paris museum wall, an admonishment for female patrons that they not scratch the wood floors. At just 16, he apprenticed at the Folies Bergère, where the showgirl influence forever entrenched itself in his aesthetic. “The Beauty Strass from this season is very Folies Bergère,” says the 45-year-old Louboutin, alluding to a peep-toe pump in black or fuchsia satin, embellished by a luscious ribbon of crystals that wraps seductively around the foot.
FROM LEFT: Calypso pump; Lady Page lacy heel; Pigalle studded pump; Lady Lynch Zeppa Strass wedge.
A stint with the legendary Roger Vivier—a master of the stiletto heel—also would inform Louboutin’s DNA. Smaller heels, even flats, make an appearance in each of his collections, but you know this is not where Louboutin’s heart lies. “A flat shoe is a very different type of exercise,” he says. “When you design a flat you’re working with horizons, but sketching a high heel is for me all about circles. A sky-high pump is a complicated achievement; once you do a really beautiful pump, for me it’s like the perfect face before you put the makeup on.”
Louboutin is standing in the middle of LA’s Milk Studios as he says this, taking a break from his latest endeavor: directing. Rather than kick off the West Hollywood store with a typical personal appearance—too bourgeois for the freethinking Louboutin—he hit upon the idea of premiering a short film. He asked a friend to direct the project, explaining in minute detail his concept: a riff on Psycho that he ultimately titled Psychologic, in which the shower scene’s weapon of choice is not a knife but a stiletto heel. The eight-minute film climaxes with a fantasy sequence in the West Hollywood store. “[My friend] smiled and said, ‘Christian, why don’t you do it yourself?’” he says. “The first day in the studio, I was very nervous; it’s like being onstage. But you have to go for it, so I just didn’t think. I let myself go, and it happened quite naturally.”
And with that, Louboutin turns back to the camera, the showman scaling new heights. 650 N. Robertson Blvd., Hollywood, 310-247- 9300; christianlouboutin.com