The man with the red sole has his eyes trained on Mumbai. The first name in high heel fashion, Christian Louboutin says that his second store in the country is due to be completed within the year. “Probably in the next six months,” he says, adding, “That’s why I’m staying back for a week.”
The star speaker at the recently concluded Mint Luxury conference, the French-based Louboutin admits he’s an Indophile,
and has been visiting the country every year since he was 17. “If you like a country, it’s because you like the people,” he explains, adding, “India has the culture, food, architecture and beauty, so I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t like it.”
Despite his intimate knowledge of the land and its people, Louboutin admits to being pleasantly surprised with the findings his first store in Delhi has thrown up. “It’s funny that despite being perceived as a super high-heeled man, Indian women come to my store to buy flats. It’s incredibly flattering, because it means they look at the design (of the stilettos), appreciate it, and believe that I could make something different that would still suit their tastes.”
Even if you have never heard the name Christian Louboutin, you’ve definitely seen his works of art. The famous red sole, that has adorned the feet of celebrities from Angelina Jolie to Kareena Kapoor, is the Frenchman’s trademark, one that women are willing to shell out several hundred dollars for.
Still, Louboutin insists the perfect shoe must be able to blend into the image of its wearer. “The best shoe is at the service of the woman, and not the other way around. You should be able to notice and appreciate her first, and only spot the shoe when you look closer,” he says, adding, “Most women I know wear my shoes first, and then decide how they’re going to dress to match it. A good pair of heels should give you attitude and add elegance to your body language.”
To the man who describes his signature sky-high heels as “a little pain, but a lot of pleasure”, the ultimate satisfaction comes from seeing performers choose his brand over every other. “Sometimes my sisters complain saying ‘oh this is too high, it’s not comfortable,’ but I tell them, ‘If Tina Turner can dance for two hours in the bloody shoe, then it’s your problem if you’re finding them too hard to walk in. It’s amazing to see women for whom shoes are integral to their job, like dancers and showgirls, opt for my designs.”
Ask what the most absurd client request he’s ever received was, and he recalls, “A lady once asked me to copy a shoe. I told her I was a designer, and I would not steal someone else’s work. It’s absurd to ask a creative person to copy someone else.”
Despite the instant recognition the red sole commands, Louboutin doesn’t want his legacy to remain tied to his heel. “When people come to meet me, it is because they appreciate my work. Young people want to have a role model who doesn’t come from the right family background and still created his success story from scratch.”
Admitting that he owes his career to “fairies” like Princess Caroline of Monaco who bought many pairs from his first boutique when he was completely unknown, Louboutin pays it forward by creating shoes for younger clothing designers.
“Bad shoes on the runway can drive the whole collection down, but good shoes can give even a debut line a more processed feel. I like helping young designers whose enthusiasm is very strong.”