#ELLEexclusive: Christian Louboutin on how his love for Bhutan led to a capsule collection
All aboard the Loubhoutan Express to find a magical kingdom of floral decked shoes and bags
Only Christian Louboutin can present two collections that are so poles apart, yet manage to seamlessly blend them together in a cocktail of glamour and playful transgression. For his Spring-Summer showcase, displayed at the headquarters of the French Republican Guard in Paris, he drew inspiration from his childhood memories and travels across the globe.
The proof was in the pièce de résistance that lay on the other end of the ‘Loubhoutan Express’—a life-size replica of the iconic train painted in the brand’s signature red. Viewers were transported to the lush green landscape of Bhutan bedecked with pieces from the Loubhoutan limited edition capsule collection.
Just by the Louvre on the Right Bank lies Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a street named after the Swiss-born philosopher and writer. It’s also home to Christian Louboutin’s multi-billion dollar shoe empire—almost every store in the lane is owned by the famous French designer. On a bright and crisp July evening (just a day before his Haute Couture showcase), we meet at his apartment, which is now turned into a studio. Filled with art gifted by friends, including a replica of one of Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings, the space is an apt representation of Louboutin’s many passions and his love for Paris, the city he calls home. “I was born here, I have lived here all my life and I have blossomed here,” he says.
Louboutin is known to cultivate deep connections to the places he loves. For instance, he built a beautiful beach house in Portugal, which he calls his third home, or his latest collection that is inspired by the mystic landscapes of Bhutan. As a young 18-year-old boy, he thought of it as a magical kingdom with mighty mountains for company; but he could never visit. Cut to 2012, he finally made it to the happy nation accompanied by his close friend and famous designer Diane von Furstenberg. Here, Louboutin discovered bluest of blue skies, glistening pristine rivers, flowers so beautiful that they could only bloom in fairy tales and a culture so rich that he decided to dedicate an entire collection to this nation’s bounty; he calls it ‘Loubhoutan’.
For the collection, the designer collaborated with students from the Royal Art School in Bhutan. He first visited the school more than six years ago during one of his trips and ended up working with them for a wedding order for a Buddhist bride in Europe. Over a period of time, this partnership turned into a full-fledged project—the students found an outlet for their creative expression in Louboutin’s vision. In short, the collection is the perfect balance of the two worlds.
ELLE: The collection is whimsical, and it also displays great craftsmanship. How did you collaborate with the students to translate your vision?
Christian Louboutin: Each piece is almost like a mirror. When you wear the shoe and walk in front of the mirror, you will see something completely different. If you look at the bottom of the shoe, it is Bhutanese and the upper is, you could say, ‘Louboutinised’ Bhutanese. The lower part was worked on, painted, sculpted and hammered in Bhutan and the upper was made in Italy. Through this collection, I wanted to show the people of Bhutan their own culture, architecture and inspire them.
ELLE: Would you call it your most ambitious project yet?
CL: I wouldn’t call it ambitious, but this is my most personal project yet because I am so attached to the country.
ELLE: When and how did your fascination with Bhutan begin?
CL: I always thought of the country as a serene, mysterious and enchanting kind of a kingdom. During my second trip to India at the age of 17, I discovered this beautiful place, but it was very complicated to enter the country. When I finally visited, much later in life, I found that it was everything I had imagined it to be. It’s not a medieval country at all; though they keep the best of traditions, they are also in tune with the modern world. I remember being very surprised by Bhutan. When I was there, I visited a café that had traditional Bhutanese sculptures on the outside and I could hear Elvis Presley playing inside.
ELLE: You are always looking to explore places you’ve never been to. What’s next on your radar?
CL: Oh, there are so many. But the one place that I’ve been meaning to visit for a long time is Mongolia. And the other places that I can’t wait to visit are Galapagos and Easter Island. I would also like to visit Afghanistan someday and maybe Costa Rica.