Shoes and scents? Sounds like the perfect pairing to us, especially when they both come courtesy of Christian Louboutin. In this exclusive interview with Savoir Flair, the famed shoe designer reveals what inspires him, how he creates his footwear and fragrances, and how to the two go hand in hand to create the definitive Christian Louboutin woman.
How does each shoe reflect the personality of its namesake perfume?
When I came up with the name ‘Bikini Questa Sera’, I was with my Italian friend Ginevra during a beautiful evening in Portugal, going out at sunset by the sea and having fun. She has caramel skin, beautiful hair, and beautiful green eyes. We were laughing. ‘Bikini Questa Sera’ evokes the heat of the sun that caresses your skin in the middle of the night. So, I designed ‘Bikini’, a shoe that evokes a sexiness and warmth. ‘Bikini’ is a ‘Follies Strass’ flat that is inspired by the ‘Body Strass’, with a slight change in the last shape. The last was adapted to a PVC construction to evoke transparency – it undresses, preserves, and accentuates a woman’s shape and skin.
‘Tornade Blonde’ is an enlightenment – you don’t see her, but you feel her joy of life. She leaves you with a big smile, so I created a sexy sandal named ‘Tornade’, which has a plexi heel that is pierced for a lace-up effect with a double-faced red satin ribbon. To me, this design evokes the idea of light and liveliness. The transparency of the shoe almost makes it look like a woman is floating.
The shoe ‘Trouble in Heaven’ was inspired by the ‘Merci Allen’ shoe, an homage to the British pop artist Allen Jones, who works in fetishist themes. ‘Trouble in Heaven’ is proactive and meant for a woman who is at ease with her own provocation. I was looking to create the same satisfaction of when a woman looks at herself in the mirror; she doesn’t look at the shoe – she looks at the figure. The shoe is a small element, but it creates the posture and provides an easiness with her sensuality.
What emotions do you want women to feel when they wear your designs?
I’ve always liked this idea of femininity, almost a classic femininity – the idea of a woman enjoying being a woman. I have been designing shoes for a long time now, and I’ve been creating them for many different women. But when I think of what all Christian Louboutin women have in common, the only thing I can think of is that they love being a woman. When I’m designing shoes or perfume, I’m focusing on women delighting in their femininity, the privilege of being a woman. I want my designs to help them to reveal and glorify their femininity.
When I’m designing shoes or perfume, I’m focusing on women delighting in their femininity, the privilege of being a woman.
Each perfume has a distinct personality. Do you also create shoes with a specific personality in mind?
I think a woman is not exactly one person or one woman. I always had the feeling that I was not brought up amongst a few women, but by hundreds of women because my mother and sister were many different women. She does not necessarily change; she just has many facets.
Everyone is many persons with many lives. You can’t enclose one thing in one bottle or one shoe for one person. I can’t say exactly who she is. Designing shoes is a magician’s work. The shoes I’m proudest of are the ones that can appear and disappear, that serve the woman wearing them. So I design objets d’art that reveal or conceal a woman’s personality, her femininity, her desires…
Is your design approach the same for your perfumes as your shoes?
When designing shoes, I draw first. I start sketching with a pen, and I isolate myself for at least two weeks to draw. For the perfumes, it was the first time I created something without a pen. Each scent started with a discussion. When I met with the noses, I had to translate what I’m doing when I’m creating shoes for women. That’s why the first thing I mentioned to the noses was about the impact that fragrance has on someone – something striking in the memory.
What is fascinating about perfume is that it is present and then immediately past. It inscribes itself in your memory and your subconscious. There is something very exciting about the way it is there one moment, and then it leaves a trace. You see a woman walking towards you, she is there alongside you – for only a moment – and then she walks by and you’re left with just the red flash of her soles. In a way, I was trying to translate this into a fragrance. This is a present moment, and then there’s the trace vividly inscribed in your memory.
What connection do you see between shoes and perfume?
Thinking of the three perfumes, there is something I wanted to evoke – when someone passes and yet somehow remains. It is a silhouette, a way to walk, a way to appear and disappear. This is what I evoke with all my designs. Without doing anything, a woman leaves a trace, and her presence will always be remembered.