Shoemaker Louboutin taps childhood memory for Paris retrospective


The Paris building that inspired shoemaker Christian Louboutin's obsession with stiletto heels is, nearly half a century later, home to a retrospective on his career.

Louboutin - best known for producing shoes with soles painted lipstick-red - used to go to the Palais de la Porte Doree to look at exhibitions when he was a boy.

He remembers a sign with a picture of a spike-heeled shoe with a red line through it, banning women from wearing stilettos to protect the wooden floors.

He spent hours reproducing that image in his sketchbooks, laying the foundations for his career as a designer.

"I owe a lot to the drawing," he told Reuters. "I reproduced it a lot, changing the colours a bit, changing the form a bit, but I always drew ... a shoe in profile, without knowing that it could be a profession."

After an apprenticeship with Paris fashion houses, Louboutin set up his own brand and a shop in 1991. He attracted a line-up of high-profile customers including film stars, musicians and royals.

While working on one prototype, he saw someone next to him painting their nails, borrowed their varnish and tried putting some of it on the sole.
"It was a revelation," he said. "It became a trademark and I'm happy that I kept it."

The exhibition, entitled "Christian Louboutin l'Exhibition" showcases the inspirations behind the designer's work, landmarks in his career, and contemporary artists who have re-interpreted his work.

Exhibits include the sign which inspired him and the shoes worn by his first high-profile client, Princess Caroline of Monaco. There is a whole room devoted to his "nude" shoes that match the wearer's skin tone. One intricate installation crafted out of silver has a giant crystal shoe at its centre.

Another section is dedicated to photos that filmmaker David Lynch took of Louboutin's shoes, depicting them as fetish objects.

"I am not a fetishist but I can understand that in my work there are elements one can fetishise," Louboutin said.

The exhibition opens on Wednesday.

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