CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN: Two decades later, the red sole still reigns supreme

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Twenty years is a long time in the fashion industry. A world of people distracted by glittery things, it’s easy to be yesterday’s news in a blink, and that’s if you even make it to the place where you’re any day’s news. That said, there are rare instances in the industry of talent so pure and undeniable that its light simply won’t be dimmed.

Case in point: Christian Louboutin.

The collection is an amalgamation of his love and appreciation for things like art and the fine arts, architecture and design, even an adoration of showgirls and cabaret, but mainly an obsession with fine craftsmanship.

This year the French shoe master celebrates 20 years of success with his eponymous brand that has had us all seeing red season after season. And of course, Monsieur Louboutin only knows how to do things in good taste; so it’s only fitting that he’d create a capsule collection through which to glance over the past twenty years while at the same time looking decidedly into the future.

“Twenty years is a long time,” Louboutin said. “But I really actually only feel like a teenager in this business.”

Be that as it may, numbers don’t lie.

We caught up with Louboutin on the Miami leg of his tour celebrating this double-decade milestone of impeccable shoe design. He took a moment out—to talk 20-years, red soles, and what’s next— while presenting his collection at Saks Fifth Avenue in South Florida’s famed Bal Harbour Shops.

The masses of fans that spilled into the centrally located shoe department at Saks stood in line to have their signature red soles signed by Louboutin. While there were hundreds of styles to choose from, most beelined for the tiered display holding court in the center of the mayhem, in hopes of snagging a pair from the newly unveiled capsule collection, created especially for this occasion. Comprised of some 20 redesigned house icons—including the Pensee, which is considered the “the shoe that inspired the red sole”—and six one-of-a-kind bags.

The collection, which Louboutin openly admits to me was “not easy to edit down to just 20,” is more than just a glimpse at his personal favorites; it’s an opportunity to demonstrate the true beating heart behind the brand. Indeed, the collection is an amalgamation of his love and appreciation for things like art and the fine arts, architecture and design, even an adoration of showgirls and cabaret, but mainly an obsession with fine craftsmanship.

And there’s something to be said about unwavering core values and a consistent driving set of passions in design. It’s an enthusiasm that will forever ignite the fire within Louboutin and continue to inspire beauty in the world of fashion. Unwavering they are for sure, for it was some six years ago that I last caught up with this sole man, poolside at Coral Gables’ Biltmore Hotel to chat about his then-most-recent collection. A series of showgirl-inspired, multi-colored fishnet slingbacks; for which he credited a childhood obsession with the cabaret to the fun, flirty, sex appeal of his heels.

I believe it may be this consistency and true-to-himself approach that has garnered Louboutin so much wonderful attention; and at that, what has driven his business into expansion mode. By this, of course, we refer to the somewhat surprising evolution into the men’s market. At our previous meeting, I vividly recall inquiring about the possibility of dabbling into designing footwear for the debonair—a thought that while not dismissed, then had no muscle behind it. In any event, this year marks another milestone at the house of Louboutin with the premiere of his very first men’s outpost in the United States, second only to the Parisian location which in fact acts as the very first of its kind globally. And since there is most certainly a tale behind the expansion, we inquire about just how he decided to embark on the journey to design for his core constituency’s male counterparts.

It turns out it took a young British talent to deliver the message to test the waters of the male market to the doyen of footwear design. Mika, a young singer planted the seed.

Invited to marry his vision about the celebration of women with the original roots of the Crazy show, which similarly celebrates the female form, Louboutin has directed four original tableaux, inspired by everything from hip hop to art masterpieces, each taking a turn at providing a glimpse at femininity in all its forms.

But of course the man behind the red bottoms enlisted the assistance of a stellar team to best deliver the message: Patricia Folly, a choreographer and dancer at Le Crazy acted as his assistant; and top-tier talents collaborated on the end result. Artists, including David Lynch and Swizz Beatz, both composed original music; Gilles Papain, video; and Youssef Nabil, who created the poster for the show, played intricate roles in this iconic moment.

Swizz weighs in on what it’s like to work with Louboutin.

“Working with Christian on such an epic project was like a dream come true,” he said. “I always wanted to mix fashion music, and dance because it’s all one; and Christian is one of one. His mind is amazing. Only he thinks of things like this Crazy Horse project.”

FEU, as the collaboration’s been dubbed, is truly creating a buzz befitting its name—spreading like wildfire amongst fans of the Crazy Horse, Louboutin, and the mega-watt stars involved in the process.

We chatted further about his innate desire to help budding talents in any way possible, his lighthearted enthusiasm about the next 20 years and how flats can actually be sexy. A fact I contest and he, with a glimmer in his eye, confesses that similarly, “a heel can never be too high.”

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