News & Runway

Christian Louboutin: Designer Spotlight

Few shoe designers can hold a candle to Christian Louboutin when it comes to mainstream brand recognition.  Even fewer can say that a superstar like Jennifer Lopez dedicated a whole song to their work.

With shoes worn by countless celebrities, socialites, and the fashion elite, Louboutin has built an empire around his signature high-shine, red lacquered sole shoes.

I recently stopped by Bergdorf Goodman to browse the designer’s latest collection, and was struck by the vampy nature of many of the looks.

Among the styles Louboutin is offering for Fall/Winter 2010 are over-the-knee pointy Roccia python boots, as well as black boots with lush colorful fur balls scattered around their lean silhouette.
Coyote fur boots, mesh ankle booties with rainbow Swarovski crystal detailing, leopard sneakers, and studded flats and boots are also in the mix.
When looking at the bold embellishments, the dramatic silhouettes, and the wide range of colors used for the shoes (including iridescent rainbow mixed with gold), I couldn’t help but think how much the brand has changed these past seasons.
Oddly enough, the recent collection may be best summarized by a conversation that took place on a recent episode of E!’s Keeping up with the Kardashians. Khloe pulled out a pair of sky-high crystal sandals, and Kim asked her if they were shoes for a streetwalker, or Louboutins.  Once Kim realized the designer had made them, both sisters fawned over the shoes.
One thing is for sure—love ‘em or hate ‘em—you’ll always get noticed when you slip on a pair of Louboutin shoes. Fittingly, the footwear designer has frequently remarked that he finds himself inspired by the showgirls he used to see in Paris nightclubs when he was younger.
A Loubie is meant to make a woman feel and look sexy.  From the beginning, the French designer was all about a high, high heel, accentuating the female leg and pushing the envelope. So how did the brand go from churning out signature sky-high black pumps with decorative eveningwear touches to a wide array of studded and colorful designs? It all started in France back in 1991.
Louboutin has always been drawn to a 4.5 – 5 inch heel, which were far from being en vogue in the early 90s.  Even today, while the designer does offer some kitten heels and flats, he isn’t a big fan of them.  He tends to hold his showgirl shoes close to his heart, even designing a number of custom shoes for burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese.
Enamored with shoes from the age of twelve, Louboutin trained with some of the world’s most influential brands, including Charles Jourdan, Chanel, Roger Vivier, and Yves Saint Laurent, before launching his own label and boutique in 1991.  The designer has always stuck with his instincts and ignored mainstream fashion trends, even though he has supplied shoes for countless runways shows, including Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier. Though the brand launched in 1991, the original designs did not include Louboutin’s signature red sole.  However, it wasn’t long before that became Louboutin’s main point of recognition.
“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," Louboutin has said.
A turn towards bolder designs began in the early 2000s. Louboutin credits a sign at the Museum of Oceanic Art as a key catalyst.  The sign forbade women from wearing sharp stilettos that could damage the wood flooring. In response to seeing the sign, Louboutin has said that he "wanted to defy that. I wanted to create something that broke rules, and made women feel confident and empowered.”
There’s no denying that there is something empowering about a 5-inch over-the-knee python boot.  However, women who can pull such a shoe off are few and far between.
I, for one, will stick to my classic black, hidden platform, red-sole Loubie pumps…