Red Sole Envy
WORDS BY VICKY MCFARLANE
Christian Louboutin is a name that exists in the stratosphere of fashion elitism. The French designer’s elaborate sky-high heels with signature red-soles have become the female footwear equivalent of a Rolex. They are exceptionally crafted, instantly recognizable and very expensive – turning the once-overlooked sole of a shoe into a bona fide status symbol.
So just how did his highly coveted cherry red soles come to be? Louboutin, who started dreaming up fantastical footwear and sketching shoes in his early teens, says his fascination with shoes began in 1976, when he visited Musee National des Arts d’Afrique et d’Oceanie on the Avenue Daumesnil. There he saw a sign forbidding women from wearing sharp stilettos for fear of damage to the extensive wood flooring and this image stayed in his mind, with the rebel designer enthusing that he “ wanted to create something that broke rules and made women feel confident and empowered.”
The designer says his inspiration for the designs of his shoes comes from showgirls and music halls and not fashion, which he asserts becomes quickly dated. He started his career at the famous French cabaret house Folies Bergères where, among other things, he created shoes for the dancers. After a trip to Egypt and a year spent in India the young Louboutin returned to Paris in 1981 where he took a portfolio of sketches of elaborate high heels to top couture houses.
This landed him a job with pioneering women’s shoe designer Frenchman Charles Jourdan and subsequently an apprenticeship with Roger Vivier, the designer who claims to have invented the stiletto.
Louboutin went on to design women’s shoes for Chanel, Yves and Saint and later opened his own shoe salon in Paris. His big break came when Princess Caroline of Monaco, his first customer, complimented the store one day when a fashion journalist was present. The comments helped greatly to enhance Louboutin’s reputation.
Louboutin’s signature red-bottom high heeled shoes, which was inspired by his assistant applying red nail polish while he was working on a sketch, recently saw the designer take the fashion company Yves Saint Laurent to court. However, Louboutin’s dispute over YSL using red on the outer soles of some of its shoes was deemed ‘overly broad and inconsistent with the scene of trademark registration.’
Despite Louboutin’s limitations in the courtroom, his business continues to enjoy immense success. Today Louboutin shoes are the most searched-for shoe brand online. Celebrities such as the late Princess Diana, who Louboutin credited as his muse, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj and Sarah Jessica Parker can be seen touting the famous footwear.
If you aspire to own a pair of Loubis get your credit card ready! A pair of the envy-inducing footwear will set you back anywhere from $495 to $6,000 and, according to The New Yorker, Louboutin sells more than 500,000 pairs of his fantastic footwear each year. Louboutin credits his stratospheric success, not only to his modern approach to design, but also to a culture that is embracing exhibitionism, eccentricity, and personal freedom.
Although Louboutin has extended his reach to include handbags and purses, a collection of men’s footwear, and most recently a beauty line, ‘Loubis’ remain the jewel of his empire, and an item that is on every fashionistas most wanted list!
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