In Conversation With Christian Louboutin About His Fantastical Creations And Indian Cinema

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Louboutin’s red soles epitomize seduction, passion, love, iconography and power. When you put on a studded pair and strut towards a gathering, you instantly command attention and own the room. Whether you’re walking in his sandals, flats, kitten heels, boots or sneakers, there’s instant glamour to wearing the brand. In an exclusive interaction with ELLE India, the Indophile shoemaker shares his undying love for the Indian textiles, vibrant hues and cinema which shape up some of his most significant designs. Over to him…

ELLE: When you visited India as a curious Parisian teenager, how did this multi-hued and multi-layered subcontinent shape up your world-view?

Christian Louboutin (CL): Even before traveling to India (I was 16, the first time I went) I was already very appealed by Indian culture. As a child, I used to live on the 12th arrondissement in Paris, and close to my parent’s place there were two theaters screening Egyptian and Indian movies. I remember watching Gurbani Aan and Sholay there.

ELLE: Indian textiles have also inspired you time and again. What is it about the rich Indian handicrafts and handlooms that’s closer to your personal aesthetic and viewpoint?

CL: Most of the times, Indian textiles have incredibly vibrant colours and beautiful patterns. There is no limit in terms of variety in Indian fabrics and saris. I was mesmerised by how they manage to combine colours and patterns and fabrics all together in a very harmonic way.

ELLE: The who’s who of the global film industry and the royalty have graced Christian Louboutin on the red carpet. Is there a muse you’d love to dress in your beautiful shoes some day?
CL: I have many idols, and excitement for many Bollywood divinities but if I have to think of one now, I have to say that I continue to dress the feet of Sridevi, now that she lives with the angels. I do miss her.

ELLE: You’ve always been inspired by cinema, diverse cultural landscapes and art, and that is evident in your designs. What’s the root of your artistic expressions?

CL: In my work and in my life, I’ve always been driven by enthusiasm, freedom and curiosity. I love to discover new places, new cultures, meet people everywhere I go, scouting for an architectural detail, a colour association on flowers, a smell or an attitude that could be inspiring. Then it could stay somewhere in my mind for weeks, months or years, and suddenly reappear completely twisted by my creative vocabulary.

ELLE: How have films featuring the late Sridevi and the seminal masterpieces by Satyajit Ray made their presence felt in your design lexicon?

CL: When one is interested by characters out of films or the world of directors, it infuses many corners of your creativity. Not only in a perceptible way but also in a larger scope that sometimes you’re the only one to perceive. I have the same feeling with American director David Lynch between his colours, the emotion that he provides you through the music, his choice of actors and his aesthetic.

ELLE: Which are your favourite Indian festivals and what about these festivities inspires you?
CL: Holi is my favourite because of the colours. You live a Pollock moment, you end up speaking and greeting people in unexpected way. I went to many Holi celebrations… more than 40 years for now, can you imagine?

ELLE: CL red heels have always been the metaphor for position, stature and seduction. One could spot them from a mile. What do the red heels denote in the post pandemic world?

CL: I hope a message of hope and a celebration of life, going back little by little in a more normal way. Red is always to me, the colour of passion and love, without which nothing is possible. At least, for me.

ELLE: How do you see the future of the high heels evolving with comfort-driven dressing taking precedence after the long period of pandemic? Have you tweaked your core aesthetic to suit Gen Z sensibilities?

CL: I’m quite surprised by the evolution of the market at the moment. All studies bet on comfort-driven designs before pandemic but after almost two years confined at home, people seem to be willing to go back to heels. But I’ve to say, since Day 1, I’ve always developed sandals, flats, kitten heels, boots… And sneakers. When I launched my first men’s collection back to 2009, women came to my men’s stores to buy sneakers. I’ve developed my DNA and aesthetic through all types of shoes. So I can’t say I’ve tweaked anything for Gen Z; I’ve just continued to make things in my own way: strong, playful and colourful.

ELLE: Louboutin sneakers (Junior Spikes and Orlato) stunningly combine the iconic studs with the athleisure elements. What’s the story behind the extremely covetable newly unveiled Arpoador sneakers?

CL: I’ve always been inspired by Brazil—the light, the laid back attitude of people living there, the curves in Oscar Niemeyer’s sketches. Arpoador is the name of the peninsula between Ipanema and Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro. It combines sinuous lines drawn from Brazilian architecture, together with the athletic attitude of capoeira, something very soft and supple.

ELLE: Do we see you collaborating with any artist or a design house for a limited edition of trainers anytime soon?

CL: I’m not wiling to do collaborations in the pure aim of associating my name with someone else. All the collaborations I’ve worked on in the past have been motivated by encounters. I value the power of collaboration a lot, when both sides bring ideas on the table and bring them to something beyond anything we could have imagine individually.

ELLE: Art is a major source of inspiration for you and is a part of all CL’s advertising campaigns. Do you consider fashion as art or an applied art form?

CL: Fashion could have been an art in the past with grands couturiers like Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent or still John Galliano. But nowadays, I consider fashion way more as an industry than an art, with no pejorative tone in the word industry. But I’ve to say, I’m more interested in the difference between art and artisan, rather than fashion and art. Look at the Giacometti’s brothers. I don’t get why Alberto is more renown than Diego who used to be a designer. The pieces he created are mind-blowing, very creative and amazingly executed, but his name is not associated to art but to arts appliqués. Doesn’t really make sense to me.

ELLE: Fashion collaborations are taking everywhere—be it Fendi/Versace or Kim Kardashian and Fendi. Do we see you collaborating any time soon?

CL: It’s not planned at the moment. I’m focused on L’Exhibition [niste] exhibition I unveiled in 2020 in Paris, that will be displayed in Monaco next summer. It’s actually hard work to readapt it and to make it a special event for Le Grimaldi Forum.

ELLE: Let’s talk about Loubiprince, Loubiluna and Loubicharme perfume campaigns from the Louboutin Beauty stable, which took social media by storm. How did the imagery come to life and what was the take-off point at the outset?

CL: The Loubiworld fragrances are a journey through my imagination. I needed to find the right tour guide to escort women and men through each land and show them the best sights. I immediately thought of my dear friend and talented illustrator Hélène Tran. The three new fragrances are inspired by frequent travels I used to do in the Middle East and some images I’ve collected in my mind from this culture. The vistas I have seen, the stories people have shared, and the scents, colours and flavours that have been
unveiled to me–all of it has had a lasting impression. In my mind, these real-life experiences blend with my dreams to form fantastical worlds: Loubicharme, Loubiprince and Loubiluna.

ELLE: Today, CL is one of the most venerable names among the pantheons of luxury icons. How does it feel to achieve so much success given the fact that you’re a completely self-made man?

CL: Obviously, I’m proud, but more than that, I’m thankful to all the people I met and all the people working with me everyday who made this adventure a success. It has been a hard work for sure, but I’m also conscious that I’ve been very lucky in my life.

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