A Conversation With… Christian Louboutin

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“There is no high enough”

Right now nobody is designing more exciting women’s shoes than Christian Louboutin. He explains to us why size does matter.

Christian Louboutin headshot
Photo: Courtesy of Trunk Archive

Mr. Louboutin, you are wearing sneakers today. Do you buy a lot of shoes yourself?

Oh, yes. I have a huge collection.

How huge?

About 300, 400, I guess. I never throw shoes away, that is the one thing. The other thing: I love new shoes. They slip into a different category as soon as they have the slightest scratch: I do still like them, but it’s not the same anymore.

Do men need more than, say, six pairs of shoes?

Of course not. Practically regarded a man needs two pairs of shoes for the evening, two pair of sneakers, one pair of loafers, two pairs of boots and something for the beach. Everything that goes beyond that is obsessive.

Just like you?

Possibly. I also buy large numbers of ties, even though I don’t like wearing them. Well, I would like to wear them, but after a maximum of one hour I get claustrophobic. I love the colors, the fabrics, the patterns.

One of your customers is said to own more than 600 pairs of Louboutins.

You mean Danielle Steel, the American bestselling author? That has to be put into a context: she does have many daughters. She doesn’t only buy them for herself. But it is true, she is my best customer. She regularly flies to Paris and buys everything.

Christian Louboutin headshot
Photo: Courtesy of Trunk Archive

"Men always believe women to be a mystery, but women are just as brutal, mean, and loving as men are."

A man would never do that. Why do women?

Men have a different behavior of buying. They buy shoes in order to wear them for as long as possible, they clean them, they polish them lovingly, they consider shoes an investment. Women don’t care about things like these. Women define their body language via their shoes. Shoes are mere accessories for men. Women experimenting with shoes always play with the sexual aura.

What is it that makes high heels so sexy?

The shoe itself is an erotic fetish, but a woman doesn’t have to be a fetishist to like high heels. High heels shape the body, they push the centre of gravity forward, which results in sticking out the booty and pushing through the spine, which, again, results in the bust. Heels turn a straight body into an S-curve. Just go into a shoe store and watch women trying on the shoes. They step in front of the mirror and the first look goes on their body, the booty, the chest. And then the shoes.

When does “high” become “too high?”

That is relative. Ten years ago 4.5 inches were too high, nowadays that is considered not that high. It depends on how you see things. As a doctor I’d say: from 4.5 inches on one might get into balancing problems because the centre of gravity is pushed. One has to really make an effort to manage such. As a designer I say: there is no high enough.

It seems like the high heel has replaced the it-bag as the most important symbol in fashion.

That is because there is a large portion of femininity in a woman’s shoe. The bag is and will always remain an accessory. A nude woman wearing high heels does not seem unnatural. There is nothing weird about that. It is a sensual picture. Think about Helmut Newton’s pictures. A nude woman with a hat on immediately seems dressed, and one with a bag comes across almost surreal.

What is the high heel’s equivalent in men’s fashion?

It definitely is not the tie. The only thing that comes to mind may be the voice. It surrounds the man and expresses his sensuality. To be honest, I don’t think there is an equivalent.

You once said that what you do is not fashion. What is it then?

I never think about the clothes when designing a shoe. I just don’t care about the mechanics of the fashion industry, even if I depend on it. There are so many people dreaming about being a part of this industry. I never cared about that. I was interested in the dancers, the showgirls of the music halls. I wanted to design shoes for them. But that wouldn’t have been profitable enough in the long run. I see my shoes more like a jeweler sees his jewelry: made for eternity.

You design about 150 pairs per season. How do you work?

There are no fixed rituals except that I completely isolate myself twice a year and go away. Drawing is not the problem, that always works, but I need two weeks of loneliness to put together a collection.

Where do you go?

A warm place for the summer collection and a chilly place for the winter collection. It’s easier thinking about summer shoes when it’s 34 degrees outside.

Where did you last go?

Last winter I went to my house in the countryside of Bretagne. For the summer season I usually go to Egypt, where I also have a house. This time I went to Brazil to a friend’s house.

So you sit down and then? Does it just flow?

I need no drafts or photos, if that is what you mean. I go there in order to isolate myself. But of course I am inspired by experiences, pictures, impressions. Ii just rely on the filter in my head and my memory. That’s the difference between inspiration and copies. It’s not like I am making a Samba collection just because I am in Brazil.

Do you have a certain kind of woman in mind when designing?

No, that doesn’t work in the first place, because no woman is the same person at all times. You always play different characters as a person. I grew up with four sisters but it feels like they were forty.

Did that help you understand women?

Definitely Women behave differently when there is a man present. But I was still a child while my sisters already were teenagers. They didn’t even recognize me. It was like in a harem, or to put it better: like in a play. I got to see how they speak and about what. My ears were huge.

What did you learn?

Not to be afraid of women. Not to see them as a riddle. Women function the same way men do. Men always believe women to be a mystery. However, when n private, women are just as brutal, mean and loving as men are. The speak just as explicitly about sex as men do, almost surgical.

How important was the red sole idea for your career?

Very important. A trademark like that connects. It is a secret code. And people love belonging to a sworn in community. However, it is subtle enough not to be obtrusive.

It is said that Louboutins live almost forever. Is that the secret?

There are certain structural things that I do differently, but that will remain my professional secret. Only this much: I learned a lot from the work with the showgirls. For instance: how shoes with high heels have to be constructed.

How’s your connection with Manolo Blahnik?

We’ve known each other for a long time, however, not that well. We have mutual friends. He is a great human being. And he is a master when it comes to sandals.

What was the most extravagant pair of shoes you have ever designed?

That was for a customer from Asia. There was no financial limit. He wanted something that involved rubies, so I had the sole studded with rubies – basically the entire shoe. It looked like one huge gemstone. I warned him: this shoe will destroy every floor. But he just said that the shoes would only be worn in bed.

Christian Louboutin headshot
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

"If you only want to buy two pairs of shoes you should get one black and one skin-colored one."

What color of shoes is really sexy?

Skin-colored, because thus the shoe and the foot almost melt into each other. If you only want to buy two pairs of shoes you should get one black and one skin-colored one.

What if she, wearing heels, is taller than him?

So what? You wouldn’t believe how many men find taller women sexy.

Are there shoes that you wouldn’t allow into your house or shop?

Clogs. They are just too loud and bulky.

High heels are not really made for the human foot. Does real beauty always have to hurt a little bit?

The sensation of pain is different with every person. Something that may seem unbearable to a man might only be a minor obstacle for a woman. A little pain always reminds you of how important keeping your composure is. It might press a bit, but what is that compared to the pleasure of walking through life in a confident and elegant way? It is like a good relationship. You will also accept certain bad things for the sake of love.

Is comfort overrated?

Ergonomics never interested me. The difference between us and animals is that we have reached a degree of evolution that doesn’t involve being lose to nature or perfect anatomical shape as an ideal.

What helps against pain?

Depends on the woman: if she constantly is in pain or constantly gets blisters or always stumbles, maybe she should think about keeping her hands off such shoes. But if she really is willing, she will figure out a way to get along with the obstacles. Even if it’s a vodka and tonic.

Earlier days band-aids were the weapon of choice, nowadays it is said that there are women that have their feet “botoxed.”

I’d prefer carpaccio around the toe – but not the red, that only stains. Veal.

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