We’re in Christian Louboutin’s Wedding Suite at his Horniman Circle boutique in Mumbai. He’s dressed in a neon green polo T-shirt, green trousers and boat shoes from his Spring/Summer 2014 collection, which he kicks off. “I’m always taking things off; I need to be free.” That’s why if he were to imagine himself as a shoe, he could never be a boot. “I would be a pair of Havaianas. I have this kind of solar [energy] and a resistance to the closed shoe,” he tells me, as he sinks further into the couch, totally spent. It’s been less than a week since his arrival in India, and in that time, he’s attended Rohit Bal’s finale show for Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in Delhi, hosted and attended a slew of parties, lunched at Britannia & Co in Mumbai with Sussanne Khan, and just wrapped up an interview with UK’s Channel 4 about his Bollywood poster collection. The morning after our interview, he’s flying to Bhutan.
“In some ways, I’m very disciplined and live my life like an athlete every day. My partner says waking up at five o’clock in the morning and taking a plane three times a week is bound to be exhausting. But even if I work 18 hours a day, I feel that I’m not doing enough. I have this mentality of extreme vitality — [except for] today,” says Louboutin, dropping his voice to a whisper.
Even while weary, Louboutin has a charismatic, almost infectious, energy that puts everyone at ease. He waltzes with his muse, Ileana D’Cruz, between shots, he mock-seduces her and lifts her up in his arms — everyone is laughing. “She always looks good in [a pair of] high heels; she has this beautiful walk — it’s not too rushed — and she [takes] her time to listen to people.” It’s quite apparent that the love is mutual. The two first met at a party in Marrakech (as you do when you are a Bollywood actor and a renowned designer) and hit it off immediately. “He has no hang-ups and is easy to talk to. I forget sometimes that he is this unbelievably famous designer, and a popular icon. For me, he’s a friend first and I love that he is trying to be more Indian and get into wedding wear,” says D’Cruz.
For Louboutin, launching a wedding suite seemed like a natural progression. In his teenage years, he travelled around Rajasthan and always came back for more. The bridal project helps him stay close to Indian culture. “I wanted to have something special in my Mumbai store — to really do very specific things with Indian embroidery, couture and habits,” says the designer. “No one is more precise than the Indian woman when it comes to weddings.”
At the suite, the process of designing a bridal shoe is a detailed bespoke affair — footwear is based on the outfit’s colour, embellishment and jewellery. The sari or lehenga is rolled out on a long table at the suite, and from there on, everything is designed to suit the bride’s needs. “The idea is to sort of match and complement in the form of embroidery,” says Louboutin. His designs — ‘Pigalle’, ‘Lady Peep Strass’, ‘Artifice’, ‘Body Strass’ and ‘Grunsanda’ — form the foundation of the shoe. The bride can then choose how the embroidery of the outfit is reproduced (either in parts or entirely) on satin or leather made in France. When the designer sees an outfit with a lot of embellishment, intricate shoes are out of the question. “I know even if it [does] look nice with the outfit, [on the wedding day] people will regret not having something simpler.” The heel length is determined based on the location and type of wedding so the shoe is suitably stable; if the bride has to stand and host guests throughout the ceremony or if she needs to take off her shoes at some point, he recommends open-toe sandals, platforms or thicker heels. “Between the henna on the feet and the toe rings, I wouldn’t add anything more to that. It’s nice to leave [the toes] open.”
Louboutin speaks from experience; he launched his couture atelier in Paris in 2006, and has seen his fair share of bridezillas — “even the sweetest bride becomes hysterical and anxious,” which is understandable, he says. “It’s a bit late to change the dress and to say no to the wedding; so all their anxiety is focused on the shoe.” Louboutin convinces high-heel-loving brides to choose otherwise, and if all fails, he has the “emergency shoe” or the sensible, comfortable option. All brides, he points out, want something fabulous for their wedding, especially the ones who have a passion for shoes. “Comfort is not my first priority in general, and I’m the first one to love the highest heels, but this day should be dedicated to pleasure.” In other words, your shoes should be the least of your worries. But once in a while, he gives in to the bride’s whims. Take, for instance, the metal shoes he made for a French bride who was ready to get married but still felt the need to protect her heart. Her bridal gown had a metal corset, which Louboutin replicated for her shoes. “It was quite a complicated issue, but it was nice. They’re [still together] after [all these] years.” He wouldn’t go so far as to suggest someone marry in sneakers for comfort though; even shoes with bells as embellishment would be more suitable, he muses.
Louboutin, who not only designs his brides’ shoes but has attended many Indian weddings as a friend, prefers the sombre moments during the ceremony, like when the bride enters the venue. “[She’s] in an emotional trance, surrounded by her family, which forms a universe that is protecting her; there’s something very moving about that.” At the end of the day, Louboutin says it’s love that makes the wedding day so special. “When the bride feels deeply loved, [the bond] stays for a long, long time. It’s the biggest gift — to give love and to receive love.”
And if he were to plan an Indian wedding? “I would go over the top with massive holograms but not scary ones.” It will also be a “full-on Bollywood ceremony,” he adds. We hear dreams being built.
On Ileana: Sequinned mesh gown, price on request, Gaurav Gupta. ‘Ultra Dior’ bracelet, price on request, Dior. ‘Artifice’ pointy-toe pumps, Rs 1,55,000, Christian Louboutin
On Christian: Cotton shirt, silk blazer, cotton-silk trousers; all his own. Tasselled leather loafers, price on request, Christian Louboutin
Photographs: Joy Datta; Styling: Akanksha Kamath; Art Direction: Prabal Guha Niyogi; Make-up and Hair: George P Kritikos/Anima Creative Management