True or false: Christian Louboutin can guess your shoe type by the look of your face

True or false: Christian Louboutin can guess your shoe type by the look of your face

Basic instinct

Text: Andrea Sim

The footwear legend on what birthed those iconic soles, his appreciation of women and how first impressions are often wrong

Instinct is a powerful mechanism.

Akin to the gut inclination of an actor to adlib — elevating a movie scene beyond its scripted brilliance — the flair of a designer is pivotal to his career. Just like how Heath Ledger's impromptu slow clap as The Dark Knight's Joker will forever be imprinted in our minds, the red soles of Louboutin footwear have recast one designer's gorgeous designs into modern icons desired by people the world over. Initially tacked on as a whim and down to basal instinct, such a defining factor of a designer's work could also be perceived as a double-edged sword. 

Does the girl unboxing her coming-of-age stilettos on her 18th birthday know the story behind those timeless red soles? And what of the curiosities that inspired its head-turning veneer, and the human hand that crafted the shoes any woman would be proud to partake her journey in? Therein lies one man's insatiable appetite for beauty knowing no geographical boundaries and his road to better understanding of the fairer sex. 

Meet Christian Louboutin. 

Let's start at the very beginning. How did you get into designing footwear?
I always used to draw them, but frankly I never thought designing footwear could be a profession. When I was about sixteen, someone gave me a book on Roger Vivier with a beautiful golden cover. I thought, "How amazing, it really is a career and you can make a living designing shoes!" I ended up helping Vivier with his exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs and I adored the man — I found it thrilling just to be around him. Once the exhibition was over, I knew I didn't want to work for anyone else. It was Roger — and through the book with the golden cover — that made me think about shoes more seriously. 

We have to ask. Why the colour red?
It is to the Pensee series released in 1993 that I owe the red sole. I'd made all my footwear sketches in colour and in most cases, there's a significant loss between your drawing and the final product. Because of technical limitations, you encounter heels that are never quite fine enough, or lines that are never arched enough. But for the Pansee, I saw that it couldn't have come any closer to my original drawing when first shoe came off the line (it was a model in pink crepe). Yet, something wasn't right and it took me a while to figure it out: It was because the sole was black. I grabbed my assistant Sarah's nail polish and proceeded to paint the soles red. Thanks to that, the original concept completely re-emerged. For me, the colour red signifies passion and fortune. 

Christian Louboutin red soles

There's beautiful tale in every collection you create. What eras are you particulary nostalgic for?
I'm not really one to be nostalgic but there are periods that I often look to in a creative sense. I look to architecture and fine art for its beauty, and I favour the Pharaonic Period in Egypt, Roman Greece, Mesopotamia, Zonobia and Syria — these are basically the Mediterranean civilisations around 2000 years ago. However, I also go back to the 1950s for fashion and movies, and in particular the Bollywood era from the '50s to the '70s.

The Christian Louboutin video campaigns stand out for their creative storylines. Are directing short films or perhaps even a movie something you'll consider doing?
I wish I could direct a movie but I know that I will never have the time. More than directing a movie, I have always been interested in writing scripts. It's a possibility that I keep in mind still knowing that writing a good script would also take a hell lot of time.

We've heard that you can guess the type of shoes a woman prefers just by looking at her face. Is that true?
More than just looking at her face, I observe her speaking and look at her body language. Her gestures, eyes and her entire face. By starting to understand parts of her personality, I can imagine more or less the type of shoes she has or she would wear — but, I realise and appreciate that women are complex so I'm often wrong with my first prediction.

With Christian Louboutin men's, the craft is at the fore. What does the human hand bring to the table with shoemaking that a machine can never replicate?
The human hand is driven by the love of its work and a machine can only be driven by a program. With the ability to readjust elements during the process, the human hand gives elegance to the finished shoe. This can never be replaced or understood by a machine.

There are countless avid collectors of Christian Louboutin shoes, but we're curious about what's in your shoe cabinet.
I probably have less than 500 pairs, but definitely more than 300. For each of my favourites I have two pairs each. I like to keep one — almost like a treasure — and the other, I'd wear everyday. I treat sneakers with an equal obsession to my dressier, precious brogues.

Many of your shoe designs — and also the interior of your new Scotts Square boutique in Singapore — are inspired by nature. Where do you feel most at home out of the city?
I spend a lot of time in nature and my favourite places are the lakes in Austria, the entire island of Cuba, the north of Portugal, Kerla in South India, and any National Trust garden in England. Also Brasil! They have fantastic gardens as well. In Hong Kong, you have a part of the island that is completely nature on the opposite side to Central. It's beautiful. 

Where do your best work when designing a new collection?
Any place I feel at ease, comfortable and familiar. It's the easiest way to concentrate. But an important thing for me when designing is the climate. I favour hot climates to design the summer collections and colder places to design the winter collections.

Shop Christian Louboutin in Singapore at their boutiques located at #01-16/17, Scotts Square, and #B1-127, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Also available at Pedder on Scotts, L2, Scotts Square.