RED MAGIC: Christian Louboutin

If you don’t have them, you want them. And, if you have them, you want more. That’s the spell of the red sole and the sorcerer behind this red magic is no other than the Christian Louboutin.
Born in Paris, Louboutin is Parisian chic and nonchalance, wrapped in one charismatic package. His ability to be animated, yet not exaggerated or unnatural makes him one of the most real individuals in fashion today.
Louboutin is a self-proclaimed follower of life, with his ambition and dreams taking a backseat to luck, yet his designs are due to anything but. They are meticulously designed with the sophisticated woman in mind, and are leading the fashion world one foot in front of the other.
The legend of Louboutin begins at the young age of 11 when he was an average kid of curiosity exploring the interiors of the African and Oceanic Art Museum. But unlike most children, who would have been engrossed with the exhibits, young Louboutin was stuck to a primitive poster on the wall.
“It was a 1950’s sketch of a heel that had been slashed out with a red line,” explains Louboutin. “It was there because in the ’50s the very high skinny heel — the stiletto — was made with a piece of metal at the end of it. Therefore, it was forbidden to wear the heel inside the museums in France as it would ruin the floors which were made from parquet or mosaic.”
“It was this primary sketch that got me contemplating to myself why these people had been designing this drawing of a heel only to simply cross it out with a big slash,” reveals Louboutin. It was in this perplexed and surprised state that Louboutin had an artistic epiphany: “That’s when it hit me: Everything is drawn before it exists.”
This revelation planted the seed that would later grow — almost magically — into the signature red-soled brand that Christian Louboutin is today. “It was that drawing that made me realize that everything you see around you is first drawn before it can exist. Everything here has been man-made, and very little is left on the planet that isn’t. Even gardens have been drawn by landscapers. This store and everything inside it was first drawn and sketched before it existed. Today, most of the world is a man-made creation that was drawn first.”
Young Louboutin instantly began sketching shoes. “I started drawing shoes not thinking it was a real job. I just did it as a hobby.” At the age of 12, he repeatedly sketched the same profile of a high heel but changed the embellishments. It wasn’t until much later that he realized he could do what he loved as a career. “I realized it was a real job when somebody gave me a book highlighting the beautiful works of designer Roger Vivier when I was 16 years old. That’s when I thought: ‘Ah, great! It’s actually a job. A person can absolutely design shoes. And I’ve already started!’” That’s when more magic happened.
Having decided that shoes were what he wanted to do, the confident 16-year-old Louboutin went back to his original place of inspiration — the famous French music hall, Folies Berg[è]res — that he had often escaped to as a young boy.
“When I was 12, I loved going there to the showgirls dance. I was attracted to showgirls, I loved how they sparkled and were dressed up as birds,” he explains. But it wasn’t just the dancers he loved; he loved the shows and the stage as well. “My sisters were older and I remember them loving Tina Turner and Janis Joplin. I grew up thinking women belonged on stage, and I wanted to keep them there.”
Louboutin’s designs are definitely theatrical and sometimes seem to even steal the spotlight. And the women of the stage can’t seem to get enough. With a huge celebrity following that looks more like a directory listing of the whose-who in Hollywood, Louboutin is fulfilling his mission very well. “I noticed most women on stage, like Tina Turner, dance a lot. So, obviously, there’s a direct link between dancing and shoes. From the posture to the attitude, it is directly related to the shoes as every dancer wears heels. Even classical dancers like ballerinas who don’t wear heels, stand on a point that’s like the highest heel imaginable.”
But Louboutin’s work at Folies Berg[è]res was one of pure research. “I learned a lot from the dancers about women in general,” he explains, “But I didn’t learn anything about designing as I just got coffee and ran errands; therefore, I decided to leave.”
This is when another enchanting turn of events occurred. Louboutin boldly called H[è]l[è]ne de Mortemart, the Couture Director for Christian Dior, and told her he wanted to design shoes. She invited him to see his designs and voila! He was offered an internship at Jourdan in Romans, the makers of Dior footwear at the time. It was there that he got his technical training; and when he left, he left as a true designer.
Louboutin worked his magic again and found himself freelancing for many of the most prestigious fashion houses around — from Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent. His career then appeared to go full circle as he started working under the same man whose book had inspired him to become a designer at 16 years of age: Roger Vivier. “I loved Roger Vivier; we shared a lot of similar parallels. He once told me that Christian Dior had always said to him: ‘A shoe must appear, but it must also disappear. It has to be magic,’” retells Louboutin. And that’s just what Louboutin’s shoes are today: Magic.
“I prefer shoes that undress, rather than dress so that a woman remains nude even with the shoes on. The shoes thus become an extension of her, a privilege of nudity,” explains Louboutin. That’s the conjuring power of his designs — whether embellished with studs and big ribbon folds or simply nude-colored closed-toe heels — they become part of the wearer. It doesn’t take her over, but rather she takes over it — adopting it as a natural part of her silhouette. Her legs suddenly appear longer, leaner and just sexier overall. This is the magic wand of Louboutin’s designs — an ethereal enchantment that we cannot break away from.
In 1992, Louboutin purchased his first boutique at 19 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Paris. He no longer worked under a designer or fashion house and was making his own shoes under his own name. Thus, the spell of his shoes was finally cast.
Four years later, Louboutin received a FFANY Award from the International Fashion Group. And, six years later, he was chosen to create the shoes for the finale of Yves Saint Laurent’s farewell haute couture show. The masterpiece was referred to as “Christian Louboutin for Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture 1962-2002” — the only time ever that Saint Laurent associated his name with another designer.
The year 2008 was the charmed ‘Year of Louboutin’ when he received his second FFANY Award and became the Star Honoree of the Fashion Group International. New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology even held a special tribute that was a retrospective exploration of his magnificent work, a testament to his genius.
Today, the Christian Louboutin brand can be found in 20 eponymous boutiques, 46 countries and in world famous department stores such as: Sak’s, Nieman-Marcus, Barney’s, Harvey Nichol’s, and Bergdorf-Goodman. His boutiques are magically popping up all over the globe as the spell of Louboutin sweeps the world. His latest place of conjure is Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Located in Al Khayyat Center, this store is the perfect haven of congregation for fashionistas who are gladly possessed by the red magic. And, much like Louboutin’s career, we’re sure to see more boutiques, spread throughout the Middle East, with the flick of a wand.