Christian Louboutin Bares His Soles

On the same day as he received the Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion, Christian Louboutin addressed FIT students about his career path and his iconic red-soled shoes. Flashing the red soles of her Louboutin combat boots, Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT, interviewed the renowned footwear designer in the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre on September 4.

Louboutin explained that all his shoes start with a sketch, including the Pensée, the first pair to sport the red soles. Inspired by Andy Warhol’s Flowers series, he’d sketched a yellow high heel decorated with a flower. The prototype looked great from the front, but he felt that the black sole detracted when looking at the shoe from behind. He took his assistant’s red nail polish and painted the sole. From there, everything changed.

Louboutin shoe sketch
The sketch for Louboutin’s Pensée shoe appeared on the screen.

He believes the red was so successful because even women who dress in all black will wear it. “For people who don’t like color, red is a different thing.”

Steele asked him about the connection between high heels and sex. He scoffed at the popular idea that a stiletto is a phallus and instead posited that the shoe is shaped like a woman climaxing: “The shoe is the memory of a sexual position.”

Louboutin advised the students not to let their influences extinguish their individual expression—and not to look at the reference while designing. “If you have the document, you are going to reproduce something which is not yours, and do a copy,” he said. “If you don’t, it obliges you to think your way.”

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