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Christian Louboutin. The art of making shoes


Christian Louboutin was born January 7, 1968 in Paris’ 12th arrondissement. A Frenchman with Cameroonian roots, he grew up with his mother and three sisters, plunging him into a feminine universe that would later greatly influence his designs.

One day, a young Christian Louboutin was draw to a curious design on the walls of the Musée des arts Africains et Océaniens: a woman’s pump, crossed out with a red line. This image, which dates back to the 1950s and was designed to protect the hard wood floors of the museum, fascinated the young boy. He had never seen anything quite like it, and the image would never leave him. Some years later, Chiristian Louboutin discovered the Parisian nightlife scene.

In the mythic Palace club, an old theater transformed into a night club, he found himself in an underground universe surrounded by colorful, crazy individuals, emblematic personalities, both celebrities and unknowns. During this period he also frequently visited theaters as well as music halls. Inspired by this strange yet sensual environment, he decided to create pumps for dancers, selling them door-to-door directly in theaters.

In 1980, Christian Louboutin decided to leave his studies behind and follow an internship at the legendary cabaret, Les Folies Bergères. Thanks to support from Christian Dior’s couture director of the time, Hélène de Mortemart, he joined  Charles Jourdan in 1982 in Romans-sur-Isère.

This lead to freelance jobs in some of the most prestigious fashion houses (Maud Frison, Chanel, Saint Laurent) before he decided to completely reorient himself in landscape architecture. He began designing gardens and writing articles for Vogue Paris, but soon missed designing high heels. After seeing a boutique in a Parisian covered gallery, the passage Véro-Dodat, he founded his own house in 1992 with two friends.

From jewel-studded stilettos to light-hearted designs, Christian Louboutin’s collections have won over celebrity fans like Modonna, Nicole Kidman, Carline de Monaco, Arielle Dombasle and Dita Von Teese. His famous red soles, clean lines and impeccable finishings are marks of the designer’s  craftsmanship, famous for the charm and glamour of his designs.

Christian Louboutin has collaborated with major designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, Azzedine Alaia and Diane Von Furstenbuerg as well as young designers such as Roland Mouret, Rodarte and Martin Grant. In 2002, he designed a shoe for Yves Saint Lauren’s runway show. The sandal was worn during the show’s finale, and for the first time in his career, Yves Saint Laurent associated his name with another designer’s, creating the brand “Christian Louboutin for Yves Saint Laurent Haute couture 1962-2002″.

A worldwide traveler, Christian Louboutin is often times inspired by the different continents he visits: he has a strong fascination for the Orient, and a taste for different materials and objects from all around the world that he collects during his travels.

He is also equally inspired by the arts, landscapes and cinema. This is seen in his collaborations with David Lynch: shoes designed by Louboutin for an exhibition at the Cartier Foundation that were hand painted by the filmmaker. For the Fetish exhibition, one-of-a-kind pieces were crafted and photographed by the master of this off-beat fantasy world himself. In 2008, the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York paid homage to the designer, with a previously unseen retrospective of his design career. In 2009, at the request of Dita Von Teese, Christian Louboutin created shoes for the Crazy Horse cabaret club in Paris, joining Dutch contemporary artist, Madeleine Berkhemer, with whom he created several new pieces. In celebration of his 20th anniversary, Christian Louboutin opened up to French writer Eric Reinhardt, for a special edition art book concentrating on the last two decades of fashion, published by Rizzoli. On March 4, 2012, Christian Louboutin played the ringmaster at the Crazy Horse, presenting a performance entitled Feu (fire), choreographed by Patricia Foly.

Photos courtesy of The Selby  / Christian Louboutin

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