This past Wednesday, The Couture Council of The Museum at FIT held its annual Couture Council Luncheon Wednesday, at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.
Every year, the exciting luncheon marks the unofficial beginning of fashion week, while raising money to benefit the Museum at FIT. Sponsored by Nordstrom, and co-chaired by Melissa Mafrige-Mithoff and Amelia Ogunlesi, this year’s 2019 Couture Council for Artistry in Fashion Award was presented by Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas to none other than the iconic luxury shoe designer, Christian Louboutin.
After the award ceremony, Mr. Louboutin was kind enough to host a discussion with Valerie Steele, the Museum Curator, here at FIT, where he answered some of our most burning questions.
Mr. Louboutin began the talk by telling us the story of the catalyst for his shoe obsession. At the age of 12, he would spend hours in the Palais de la Porte Dorée in Paris, which, at the time was a museum showcasing African and Oceanic arts. Next to its entrance hung a sign with a woman’s foot in a stiletto pump, crossed out by a red X, declaring, “No high heels allowed.” Not long after, he began obsessively doodling shoes like these all over his notebooks.
“I was bored in school, so I liked to draw shoes,” he explained, with a sense of nonchalant brilliance. “When you’re a kid, people ask you what you want to do…. And sometimes it’s traumatizing. I would always lie and say I wanted to do shoes,” he shrugged. And then that lie became a reality.
In the 80’s, he began as an intern for the Folies Bergères and Charles Jourdan, then a supplier to Christian Dior. At his first few gigs, he laughed, recalling having to buy veal at the butcher’s market everyday, so that the designers could use it as cushions for the soles of the feet. In 1988, he became the personal assistant to Roger Vivier, his dream job.
In 1991, he was finally convinced to open up his first store with the help of a few colleagues in a Parisian photo shop, which immersed clients in world of his making. His packaging, a sacred object in itself, became a ritual and icon, almost like the grand proposal of an opening of a small blue Tiffany’s box.
The woman he was dressing was modern, bold, intellectual. She was, most likely, Parisian, or Parisian at heart; she wore all black with the exception of satin red lipstick, of course. Inspired by this, as well as pop-art (particularly Andy Warhol’s painting, “Flowers”), the red heal is a statement (first applied with lacquer red nail polish, might I add) that exudes just sex appeal and sophistication. A statement that, to this day, is still as iconic as its debut.
From his shop to his packaging, he knows that he is not selling a shoe, but a world. For Mr. Louboutin, it’s all in the posture, attention to detail, and the power of suggestion.