Fashion designer Christian Louboutin has developed an international following for his distinctive red-soled footwear. Louboutin happened on his life’s passion by accident. All it took was a trip to a museum. He saw a sign indicating that high heel shoes were not permitted there. “I was totally fascinated by that sign. I’d never seen shoes like that,” he explained to W. Before long Louboutin was filling notebooks with his own shoe sketches. He was further inspired by a book of Roger Vivier’s designs, given to him by a friend. Vivier designed shoes for Christian Dior in the 1950s.
Expelled from school at age 16, Louboutin soon went to work at the famed Parisian cabaret Folies Bergère. He did all sorts of jobs for the dancers, including fulfilling his personal dream of creating shoes for them. Louboutin then learned the ins and outs of the shoe business when he landed a job with Charles Jourdan in the early 1980s. After working as a freelance designer for a time, Louboutin set up his own shop in Paris in the early 1990s. He found the inspiration for his trademark red outer soles in 1993. “My assistant was sitting there, painting her nails red. I took one look and decided to color my soles red as a statement for the season,” Louboutin told Footwear News. “I thought, ‘Oh my god! Red soles are so flirtatious,’ and my customers asked me not to stop.” His artistic yet sexy shoes soon attracted the likes of Princess Caroline of Monaco, one of his early customers. Madonna wore his dangerously high heels in some of her videos, helping to introduce the world to Louboutin.
Over the years, Louboutin has continued to turn out season after season of imaginative footwear. “For inspiration, I often imagine a courtesan living out her life in a circus,” he explained to Marie Claire magazine. He has turned his surrealistically beautiful shoes into an international success story. According to The New Yorker, he sells more than 500,000 pairs of his fabulous footwear each year. The cost of getting a pair of Louboutins can range from nearly $400 up to $6,000. Louboutin has stores around the world in addition to his Paris headquarters.
In addition to women’s shoes, Louboutin has worked to expand his reach in fashion. He branched out into handbags in 2003, and he now offers a line of men’s shoes as well. In 2014, Louboutin debuted his new beauty line.
With all his success, Louboutin has worked hard to defend his designs from copiers and counterfeiters. He even took the fashion company Yves Saint Laurent to court over its use of red outer soles on some of its shoes. Louboutin also set up his own website to address the counterfeit shoe problem.
Outside of his fashion empire, Louboutin has taken on some creative challenges. He worked with director David Lynch on a photo exhibit in 2007. In 2012, Louboutin helped design many elements of Feu, or “Fire,” a show at the legendary Parisian club Crazy Horse. Biography credit: Bio.com