Design Experts
Aug 6, 2013

Inside design: Christian Louboutin

By: Jessica Waks

Inside design: Christian Louboutin Author: Style At Home

Design Experts
Aug 6, 2013

Inside design: Christian Louboutin

By: Jessica Waks

The iconic French footwear designer Christian Louboutin brings his luxe flair to Toronto’s Design Exchange this summer with a retrospective exhibition that proves design is as alive inside your closet as it is in your living room. We caught up with him to chat about his inspiration.

inside-design-louboutin-exhibit.jpg
Photography by Luke Hayes/Design Museum, London

STYLE AT HOME: What are some of your design inspirations?
CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN Travelling and experiencing new cultures is certainly my biggest influence, but it’s not as straight forward as going to a country and being immediately inspired. Inspiration emerges in bits and pieces. For example, my Esmeralda shoe is a sandal covered in flattened sequins that came from a souk in Cairo. In some ways, the shoe suggests belly dancers, with the shimmering look of the sequins and the golden colour. Contrary to what you may think, I did not design this on my way back from Egypt. It’d be rather academic, or too literal, to create an Egyptian collection solely on the grounds that I’d recently been there.

SAH: Tell us about some of the highlights of the Design Exchange exhibition.
CL I like people to be surprised when going to an exhibition, so I don’t want to reveal too much – it’s like when people give away a movie plot before I’ve had a chance to see it, which I hate. People should go see it for the surprises and focus points. I will say one thing: The exhibition will feature more than just shoes. I think that most high-end footwear designers come from the fashion world, which I don’t, and I believe that makes a difference in my designs. It proves that it’s important to remain open-minded.

SAH: What’s your favourite part of the shoe design process?
CL I’ve always been most interested in drawing the curve of the shoe and in the effect this will have on the wearer’s foot. The most time consuming shoe I ever designed was actually a very simple pump called the Hai. I had great trouble getting its proportions correct.

Lead image by Stephen Gladieu. inside-design-louboutin-garden.jpg
Photography by Luke Hayes/Design Museum, London

SAH: Do you think there is a strong connection between fashion and interior design?
CL Fashion certainly has strong links with all areas of our living space. A source of my inspiration is my garden design in Vendée in west France. I learned botany in my youth and then worked as a landscape gardener. The garden allows me to see colours, blends of colours and materials – it’s very instructive. Still today, if I close my eyes, I don’t see velvet; I see the thickness of a pansy flower.

SAH: Who is your favourite interior designer or architect?
CL Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. We share a love of curves and designs that stray from using right angles. I really wanted to work on a project with him, but sadly he passed away recently.

SAH: When it comes to designing, do you favour form or function?
CL When I start a drawing, I don’t worry about manufacturing technique. Everything technical can be resolved afterward. I let creativity drive every element of my work. inside-design-louboutin-red.jpg
Photography by Ritam Banerjee

SAH: What decade in history most influences your designs?
CL I take inspiration from absolutely anywhere and aspects of most eras are reflected in my designs, but I like to apply them in unexpected ways. You may find an elaborately carved heel whose shape nods to the end of the 19th century, but it’ll have a bright 1960s colour palette.

SAH: What inspired the signature red sole on all your shoes?
CL One day, years ago, I was looking at some shoe prototypes and comparing them to my drawings and they just looked too black. I grabbed the studio assistant’s nail polish, said, “Can I try something?” and painted the sole red! It made the colour really pop. From then on, I’ve been painting all my soles red.

SAH: Do you bring your signature red hue into all of your store interiors as well?
CL Red is the colour of passion – and of my brand. Every store I design contains elements of my signature colour, like the red carpeting I use in all of my stores. inside-design-louboutin-mumbai.jpg
Photography by Ritam Banerjee

SAH: Tell us more about your new Mumbai store that opened this year.
CL I wanted to capture India’s high level of quality and craftsmanship in my Mumbai store. I was keen to put emphasis on details and to have a space that reflected the nature of the company. I used local materials but mixed them with European design elements, such as Italian-imported travertine. The juxtaposition creates the drama.

SAH: What sets the Mumbai location apart from the rest of your stores?
CL India is a country I’ve loved ever since travelling there as a teenager. My stores are an expression of the World of Louboutin and, in that sense, they are more than just a simple store space. I want to ensure that customers feel that they are entering a jewel box of delights. And although there are certain elements that remain the same from store to store, country to country, I also ensure that each location is influenced by its local surroundings. That’s very evident in my Mumbai store: The use of local architects, embroiderers and craftsmen has resulted in a beautiful space. It was a real labour of love.

SAH: If you could describe your own home in three words, what would they be?
CL My. Biggest. Extravagance.
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Inside design: Christian Louboutin