Christian Louboutin (French: [kʁis.tjɑ̃ lu.bu.tɛ̃]; born 7 January 1964) is a French fashion designer whose high-end stiletto footwear incorporates shiny, red-lacquered soles that have become his signature. Initially a freelance designer for fashion houses, he started his own shoe salon in Paris, with his shoes finding favor with celebrity clientele. He has partnered with other organizations for creative projects including limited edition pieces, gallery exhibits, and even a custom bar. His company has since branched out into men's footwear, handbags, fragrances and makeup.
Louboutin was born and raised in Paris's 12th arrondissement. He was the only son of Roger, a cabinet-maker , and Irene, a homemaker, both French, from Brittany. He has three sisters. Louboutin said in a 2012 interview that he was "much darker-skinned than everyone else in his family. You know, I felt I wasn't French. My family was very French and so I decided they had probably adopted me. But instead of feeling it was terrible and that I was an outsider who had to go and find my real family, I invented my own history, full of characters from Egypt because I was very into the pharaohs." He incidentally discovered, following a revelation by one of his sisters in 2014 that his biological father was in fact an Egyptian, with whom his mother Irene had been having a secret affair.
Louboutin was expelled from school three times and then decided to run away from home at the age of 12, at which point his mother allowed him to move out to live at a friend's house. He faced much opposition when he decided to drop out from school. However, he claims that what helped him make up his mind was an interview on TV with Sophia Loren, in which she introduced her sister, saying she had to leave school when she was only 12, but when she turned 50, she got her degree. He later remarked, "Everybody applauded! And I thought, 'Well, at least if I regret it I'm going to be like the sister of Sophia Loren!'"
Landscape architect Louis Benech has been his partner since 1997. Louboutin and his partner spend time between their homes in Paris's 1st arrondissement, a fisherman's cottage in Lisbon, a palace in Aleppo, a houseboat on the Nile christened Dahabibi-my love boat, and a house in Luxor. The Luxor domicile is a former craftsman's workshop, made of earthen bricks, to which he has added an additional floor and a rooftop belvedere. Additionally, he shares a 13th-century castle in the Vendée with his business partner Bruno Chamberlain.
Louboutin began sketching shoes in his early teens, ignoring his academic studies. Going through a punk phase, he was in a few films, including 1979 cult classic Race d'ep and The Homosexual Century, which attracted an English-language audience. His first job was at the Folies Bergères, the cabaret where he assisted the entertainers backstage. He was also a fixture on the city's party scene, clubbing his nights away alongside Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol.
His little formal training included drawing and the decorative arts at the Académie d'Art Roederer. Louboutin claims his fascination with shoes began in 1976, when he visited the Musée national des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie on the avenue Daumesnil. It was there that he saw a sign from Africa forbidding women wearing sharp stilettos from entering a building for fear of damage to the extensive wood flooring. This image stayed in his mind, and he later used this idea in his designs. "I wanted to defy that," Louboutin said. "I wanted to create something that broke rules and made women feel confident and empowered."
Fascinated by world cultures, he ran away in his teens to Egypt and spent a year in India. Louboutin returned to Paris in 1981, where he assembled a portfolio of drawings of elaborate high heels. He brought it to the top couture houses. The effort resulted in employment with Charles Jourdan. Subsequently, Louboutin met Roger Vivier, who claims to have invented the stiletto, or spiked-heel shoe. Louboutin became an apprentice in Vivier's atelier.
Going on to serve as a freelance designer, Louboutin designed women's shoes for Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Maud Frizon. In the late 1980s, he turned away from fashion to become a landscape gardener and to contribute to Vogue but missed working with shoes and set up his company in 1991.
With funds from two backers, he opened a Paris shoe salon in 1991 with Princess Caroline of Monaco as his first customer. She complimented the store one day when a fashion journalist was present, and the journalist's subsequent publication of Princess' comments helped greatly to increase Louboutin's renown. Clients such as Diane von Fürstenberg and Catherine Deneuve followed. Later, those interested in his stiletto heels have included Christina Aguilera, Shirley Coates, Joan Collins, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Tina Turner, Marion Cotillard, Nicki Minaj, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Blake Lively. Sarah Jessica Parker wore a pair of shoes by Louboutin for her wedding. Britney Spears wears a pair of high-heeled Louboutins in her music video "If U Seek Amy" that were not available for sale until a month after the video was released.
Louboutin has topped the Luxury Institute's annual Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI) for three years; the brand's offerings were declared the Most Prestigious Women's Shoes in 2007, 2008, and 2009. By 2011, Louboutin became the most searched-for shoe brand online.
Louboutin helped bring stilettos back into fashion in the 1990s and 2000s, designing dozens of styles with heel heights of 120 mm (4.72 inches) and higher. The designer's professed goal has been to "make a woman look sexy, beautiful, to make her legs look as long as [he] can". While he does offer some lower-heeled styles, Louboutin is generally associated with his dressier evening-wear designs incorporating jeweled straps, bows, feathers, patent leather, red soles, and other similar decorative touches. He is most popularly known for the red leather soles on his high heel shoes, commonly referred to as "sammy red soled shoes".
His signature red soles were first created in 1993. “My sketches were not reproduced exactly as I had designed them and I couldn’t figure out why. The two dimensional sketch was so powerful on paper, but when turned into a three-dimensional object, it was somehow lacking energy. Frustrated after having tried different things to liven up the design, I spontaneously grabbed my assistant’s red nail polish and painted the sole. I instantly knew that this would be a success!”.
Christian Louboutin's red-bottom colour code is Pantone 18-1663 TPX.
His single biggest client is Danielle Steel, who is reputed to own over 6,000 pairs and is known to have purchased up to 80 pairs at a time when shopping at his stores. Ms. Steel is an American novelist, currently the best selling author alive and the fourth bestselling author of all time, with over 800 million copies sold.
The red sole is protected as a trademark in several countries, and litigation has taken place in various disputes in which Louboutin claimed infringement of its rights. Litigation generally also involved discussion of the validity or the scope of protection of the trademark.
- Belgium - Louboutin vs. Dr. Adams Footwear
In 2013, Louboutin filed a trademark infringement claim of the Benelux trademark against Dr. Adams. The Court of First Instance of Brussels declared the trademark however invalid. That decision was overturned by the Brussels Court of Appeal, who forbade the sale of shoes with a red sole by Dr. Adams.
- France - Louboutin vs. Zara
In France, in first instance the trademark of Louboutin was held valid, but not infringed by Zara. The Court of Appeal however considered the French trademark invalid. The latter decision was upheld by the French Supreme Court in 2012.
- Netherlands - Louboutin vs. Van Haren
Also in 2013, in The Netherlands, Louboutin initiated litigation against Van Haren, seeking it to stop selling the red soled shoe "5th Avenue by Halle Berry", based also on the Benelux trademark. Litigation in this case is still ongoing, and the District Court of The Hague has proposed in 2015 to ask preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union that it considers necessary in order to determine whether the trademark is valid.
- United States - Christian Louboutin vs. Yves Saint Laurent
In 2011, Christian Louboutin company filed a US trademark infringement claim of its red-soled shoes against designer Yves Saint Laurent. The firm is expecting that the YSL shoe design will be revoked and is seeking US$1 million in damages. However, in August 2011, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero denied the firm's request to stop the sale of women's shoes with red soles by Yves Saint Laurent. The judge questioned the validity of the trademark, writing, "Louboutin's claim would cast a red cloud over the whole industry, cramping what other designers do, while allowing Louboutin to paint with a full palette." Judge Marrero also wrote, "Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection, even if it has gained enough public recognition in the market to have acquired secondary meaning." In his thirty-two-page decision, Judge Marrero compared fashion designers to painters and noted how creativity for both is dependent upon using color as "an indispensable medium" that "plays a unique role." The Court observed that: "The law should not countenance restraints that would interfere with creativity and stifle competition by one designer, while granting another a monopoly invested with the right to exclude use of an ornamental or functional medium necessary for freest and most productive artistic expression by all engaged in the same enterprise." Jewelry company Tiffany & Co., which has its blue box trademarked, filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the right to trademark a color. In September 2012, the court finally ruled that Louboutin retains the exclusive right to use the color red on the bottom of its shoes whenever the outer portion of the shoe is any color besides red, while Yves Saint Laurent can continue to sell its shoes with red soles as long as the whole shoe is red. The YSL monochromatic shoe – red upper, red outsole – over which the lawsuit originally had been brought and against which Louboutin had tried and failed to get a preliminary injunction, therefore won't infringe the trimmed-down trademark.
- Switzerland – Christian Louboutin vs. Eidgenössisches Institut für Geistiges Eigentum (IGE)
The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property rejected Louboutin's trademark's extension to Switzerland in 2011, considering the trademark invalid. The Swiss Federal Supreme Court confirmed the invalidity of the trademark in Switzerland in February 2017.
Turnover and pricing
In his first year of business, Louboutin sold 200 pairs of shoes. In 2012, he sold 700,000 a year and expected revenue to grow at an annual rate of 40 percent. In terms of market share, the U.S. accounts for 52 percent of Louboutin's sales; Europe, the Middle East and Russia, 30 percent; and Asia & Japan, 18 percent. 95% of the firm's $300 million in annual revenue comes from shoes, with the remainder derived from purses and handbags. They expect the volume of handbags to eventually represent 20% of their annual sales.
Wholesale purchases represented in 2009 88% of the business. Overseas, the company has partnered with Pedder Group of Hong Kong for distribution in their Asian markets and the Chalhoub Group of the United Arab Emirates for their representation in the Middle East.
As of March 2012, the firm employed 420 staff members (referred to as Loubi's Angels) around the world. Most of the footwear is manufactured and produced at his factory in Milan, but he also maintains a small atelier on Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for private clients and one of a kind creations.
Louboutins can sell from $495 and up, with crystal-encrusted pairs costing up to $6,000. The base price for a custom-made pair of Louboutin is $4,000. If the style already exists, it is standard price tag plus 30%.
Louboutin has said over the past decade, he has been offered licensing deals on everything from cars and glasses to swimwear and ready-to-wear, but has turned them down as he does not want his name to be one that can be licensed. In 2003, his first extension outside of shoes was the introduction of his handbags and purses line.
In 2011, he launched a collection of men's footwear at a new exclusive store in Paris. Two explanations were given why Louboutin started a men's line. The first was a story of a French woman who asked him to make her a pair of shoes for her very large feet. He custom-created the size 13 1/2 shoes for her, but she didn't end up buying them. Instead, he passed them along to a friend who gave them to her husband. The second story was that the idea of starting a men's line came from musician Mika, who asked Louboutin to design all the shoes for his show for his tour. He also noticed, "There is a group of men that is thinking a little bit more like women. They're super-excited to buy the 'new thing.' I've noticed on blogs, for example, that men are very serious about their shoes now. They treat shoes very much as objects, as collectors' items. Of course, there is still a group that is more conservative in their tastes. They like to pass their shoes down to their son or say they have had a pair for 25 years". A unique feature introduced was the Tattoo Parlor, where customers could have digital photos taken of their ink and embroidered onto their shoes or, embroider the signature brogues in addition to selecting designs by Christian Louboutin with prices starting at around $8,000.
In 2012, Louboutin partnered with Batallure Beauty LLC to launch Christian Louboutin Beauté to enter the luxury beauty market. Catherine Roggero is the New York-based general manager for Christian Louboutin, a venture between Christian Louboutin SAS and Batallure Beauty. Roggero "will be responsible for developing Louboutin's beauty business."
On 23 July 2014, Christian Louboutin Beauté launched a range of nail lacquers, exclusively debuting the signature red shade, Rouge Louboutin, at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship in New York and its 15 US boutiques. In support of this launch, the high-end department store created Loubiville, a five-window visual merchandising display. The range was more widely distributed on 6 August 2014 to Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and select Sephora boutiques. The product is a logical brand extension, as an assistant's nail polish was the impetus for the shoes' red soles. Much like the shoes, the polish is receiving attention for its provocative shape, a long spiky cap, designed to resemble a calligrapher's brush or a spire.
In 2015, he expanded his foray into beauty with a lipstick collection. The tube was inspired by Babylonian architecture and Middle Eastern antiquities. As of 2017, he offers 38 tones, divided into three collections.
Louboutin entered the fragrance market in 2016 with the release of three parfums: Bikini Questa Sera, with jasmine and tuberose notes; Tornade Blonde, with rose and cassis notes; and Trouble in Heaven, with patchouli and amber notes. The bottles were designed by Thomas Heatherwick's studio, which was also responsible for designing the 2012 Olympic cauldron.
In 2007, he collaborated with the filmmaker David Lynch on Fetish, an exhibition of his shoes in Lynch's photographs as erotic sculptural objects including ballet pumps made vertical by an impossible heel, or shoes with heels projecting inches beyond the sole (Viennese heel). He partnered once again with Lynch and Swizz Beats to compose music when Louboutin directed a show at Crazy Horse, called Feu, which ran from 5 March to 31 May 2012.
In conjunction with Bergdorf Goodman, he held a competition for design students at the Parsons New School for Design who graduated in 2010 and 2011, encouraging them to create apparel inspired by Louboutin's silhouettes of the past two decades, as well as the brand's new capsule collection.
In 2011, Louboutin celebrated his 20th anniversary with a new self-titled book, published by Rizzoli. Bound in pink faux leather with gilded pages and a five-piece fold-out cover, the book covers the designer's most iconic styles as well as an insight into his influences and photos from his personal archives. American actor John Malkovich, who is a close friend of Louboutin's, provides the book's foreword, while some of the photography is courtesy of David Lynch. The book is divided into six chapters: the first documents Louboutin's biography, noting his early work for Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent; the second looks at the various interiors of the label's international stores; the third charts 20 years of Louboutin design, the fourth features intimate photographs of the designer's Paris and Egypt homes, while the fifth and sixth explore his collaborations. The retail price of the book on launch was US$150.
In 2012, he was commissioned by Disney to create a modern-day Cinderella-inspired pair of slippers limited to just 20 pieces, to complement release of the Cinderella: Diamond Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack in the fall. Louboutin also appears in a Disney-produced 10-minute short called The Magic of the Glass Slipper: A Cinderella Story, a bonus feature on the Cinderella Blu-ray DVD. He also partnered with Mattel that same year to create a limited edition "Louboutin Barbie". The first in the series was a cat burglar themed Barbie, which retailed for $150 and sold out the first day.
At the 2012 Grey Goose Winter Ball, he designed his dream cocktail bar to benefit the Elton John foundation. Dubbed the Crazy Luxor bar, the sculptural piece is shaped like a stiletto and is finished in a high-shine black lacquer with a red trim to echo the designer's signature red sole. The ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics on the facade of the bar are in honour of his love of Egypt. The bar was later auctioned at the Architecture of Taste-themed ball on 29 October 2012 in Battersea Park, London.
Also in 2012, an iPhone app was launched allowing users to view seasonal collections, watch brand videos, make a brand wish list, find a store, and view a feature called '20 Ans' ('20 years'), which shows the hand drawn designs of the Louboutin shoes and the finished product.
Louboutin was also one of the judges at the Martini Royale Casting Party to find the new face of the drinks brand.
In 2013, Louboutin was celebrated at Toronto's Design Exchange with a comprehensive exhibit featuring themes of showgirls, fetish, construction and travel.
In the spring of 2012, the company opened its first men's store in New York City, with over 1,000 square feet of space and located next to its existing Horatio Street store. From previous experience in his Paris store, Louboutin claimed that women feel uncomfortable when men stare at them while they try on shoes, hence the separate stores.
The first Louboutin Men's Boutique, Christian Louboutin Boutique Homme on Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Paris, opened in the summer of 2012.
|Country||Number of stores||Cities||Location|
|France||4||Paris (4)||Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau (2), Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, Rue de Grenelle|
|United States of America||14||New York City (3), Las Vegas (3), Los Angeles, Costa Mesa, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, Honolulu||Washington Street, Madison Avenue and Horatio Street in New York City, Caesars Palace, The Palazzo and the Shops at Crystals (Aria) in Las Vegas, Beverly Hills in Los Angeles (Nd Robertson Boulevard, West Hollywood) and South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Highland Park Village in Dallas, Design District in Miami, Oak Street in Chicago, Buckhead Atlanta in Atlanta, Maiden Lane in San Francisco, Kalakaua Avenue in Honolulu|
|United Kingdom||3||London (3)||Motcomb Street (Original), Mount Street, Dover Street (Men's)|
|Ireland||1||Dublin (1)||Brown Thomas, Grafton Street|
|United Arab Emirates||2||Dubai (2)||Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall|
|Kuwait||1||Kuwait City||Salhiya Complex|
|Vietnam||1||Ho Chi Minh City||Dong Khoi Street|
|Bahrain||1||Manama||City Center Manama|
|Russia||4||Moscow (3), Saint Petersburg||Malaya Bronnaya Street (the original), Petrovka Street, Stoleshnikov Lane, Bolshaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa|
|Saudi Arabia||2||Riyadh, Jeddah||Kingdom Centre-Riyadh, Al Khayyat Center-Jeddah|
|Singapore||1||Singapore City||Ngee Ann City|
|Brazil||2||Brasília, São Paulo||Iguatemi São Paulo, Iguatemi Brasília,|
|Australia||2||Sydney, Melbourne||Westfield Sydney, Collins Street, Melbourne|
|China||6||Hong Kong (3), Shanghai, Beijing, Shenyang||On Lan Street, Hong Kong; The Gateway, Hong Kong, Canton Road; Shanghai Centre, Sanlitun Road, Shenhe District|
|Japan||4||Tokyo (2), Nagoya, Osaka||Ginza District in Tokyo, Shinsaibashi, Osaka|
|Spain||1||Madrid||Calle Claudio Coello|
|Switzerland||2||Geneva, Zurich||Rue Du Rhone, Wühre 7|
|India||2||New Delhi, Mumbai||Emporio Mall, Horniman Circle Gardens|
|Turkey||2||Istanbul||Abdi İpekçi Street, İstinye Park|
|Italy||2||Rome, Milan||Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina in Rome, Via Vincenzo Capelli in Milan|
|Monaco||1||Monaco||Avenue de Grande Bretagne|
Christian Louboutin Miami is located on 40th Street in the Design District of Miami, Florida. Louboutin chose to open a store in Miami because of the mix of businesses, the small urban scale, and his obvious following there. During Miami Basel art fair when the store opened in 2009, he said, "You don't get this with Europeans—but Americans actually come into my office in Paris to meet me, and a lot of those people are from Miami." The boutique stocks Louboutin's most colorful, strappy, precarious styles, on account of the subtropical climate and the fact that, Louboutin says, "people barely walk in the street."
The 2,400-square-foot space was designed by Eric Clough and 212box. Above a steel awning shaped like a Louboutin shoe in profile, with a red underside to boot, pink orchids sprout from the coral-stone facade. Still more orchids project from a wall in the entry gallery. Pantyhose have been recycled by Dutch artist Madeleine Berkhemer into a multi-colored sculpture that stretches over the empty concrete floor with some of Louboutin's signature shoes dangling in the overhead tangle of nylon "like insects trapped in a psychedelic spider's web." This L-shape space wraps two sides of a rectangular volume clad almost entirely in one-way mirror: a box that contains the merchandise for sale while allowing people who've just come in the front door to "witness other people falling in love with the shoes," Clough says.
The inside areas in the store are defined by lush red carpeting. Blue, blown-glass chandeliers hang from the ceilings. Hieroglyphics, symbols and Braille are carved onto wooden Codebox Tiles that line some of the store's interior walls. hiding the words of a poem by contemporary American poet Lyn Hejinian in plain sight, in the etched wooden tiles lining the gallery wall behind the orchids. "This is the way I / Want to go in and / Out of heaven... / Windows full at 5pm / My skull a place / Except that I think of space as the more exciting," the lines read. These coded tiles appear in many Louboutin stores designed by Clough around the world, including São Paulo, Brazil.
Louboutin's own website sells some of their products online, and contains a statement that it is the only legitimate online source with the word Louboutin in the domain name to do so. Legitimate Louboutin shoes can also be purchased in-store and online from several high-end retailers such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Joseph, Browns, Matches, Cricket and Cruise and online through Net-a-Porter and The Outnet in the UK. Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Nordstrom sell genuine Louboutin in the US. In Canada, Christian Louboutin shoes are available from Holt Renfrew and Davids.
Online, counterfeit Louboutin shoes are available In the last few years, the company has served hundreds of DMCA notices on Google to remove many sites selling fake goods from their search results.
The company set up a separate website focused on protecting the brand and detailing more than 3,000 websites that sell fake goods, many of which have been closed down.
- 1985 : La Nuit Porte Jarretelles by Virginie Thévenet
- 1987 : Jeux d'Artifices by Virginie Thévenet
- 1994 : La Folie Douce by Frédéric Jardin
- 2009 : La Traversée du Désir by Arielle Dombasle
- 2018 : Alien Crystal Palace by Arielle Dombasle
In popular culture
- The Sex and the City character Carrie Bradshaw, portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker, wore many pairs of shoes designed by Louboutin from season 3 to 6, most notably in season 3 ("Sex And Another City") with two different color metallic Red Bottoms, and the Season 4 finale "I Heart NY".
- In Breaking Bad, Lydia frequently wears black Louboutin stilettos. Camera angles often focus on the shoes and trademark soles, particularly during the Buried episode as she is led blindfold through a post-gunfight scene.
- Jennifer Lopez's single "Louboutins" (2009) was inspired by the footwear, and the visual imagery associated with the song—such as the album art—features a woman wearing a pair of Louboutin heels with red bottoms. Above her in red writing are written the name of the artist and song.
- The brand was mentioned twice in Iggy Azalea's song "Work".
- The corrupted brand name "Labuten" appears in the chorus of the song "Экспонат" by the Russian ska band Leningrad. Apparently counterfeit pair of shoes can be seen in the music video that became one of the most watched Russian music videos in January 2016. After numerous mentions in the media, the representatives of Christian Louboutin in Russia asked them to stop making inappropriate references to the brand.
- Footwear News, 1 June 1992, p. S8; 9 December 2002, p. 50
- Harper's Bazaar, December 1999, p. 104; April 2001, p. 226
- Newsweek International, 24 February 2003, p. 48
- People, 10 February 2003, pp. 87–88
- Vogue, June 2004, p. 206