Menkes on Louboutin

Manolo says, the unsinkable Suzy Menkes she has written the story about the inimitable Christian Louboutin!

On the shelves of his tiny store (21 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 75001 Paris) at the corner of a Belle Époque glassed-in gallery, Louboutin’s creations are on display: classic pumps scooping round the toes and poised on a thin 130-millimeter, or 5-inch, heel; sandals with playful pompoms where sturdy straps cross at the front; or operatic effects with lacy leather rings, echoing the years that the 13-year-old Louboutin went round Paris music halls showing his shoe sketches.

“Women don’t buy shoes – they look at themselves and their legs in silhouette – I saw that with the dancers,” says Louboutin, 41, whose nightclub subjects wore little beside their footwear.

There is a luxurious, oriental glamour to the boutique, where a curtain decorated with arabesques, mirrors with curlicue frames and a decorative screen bring a touch of the exotic. Born in Brittany but, he believes, with Tahitian blood in the family history, Louboutin has a penchant for the Middle East and has a vacation home in Egypt, on the Nile at Luxor.

How did Louboutin get from gawping at dancers to fitting his creations on classy beauties such as Princess Caroline of Monaco, Catherine Deneuve and Queen Rania of Jordan, not to mention Hollywood princesses Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow?

He passed through two iconic French houses, Charles Jourdan and Roger Vivier, where he helped organize a retrospective and handled shoes with a history of being created for Marlene Dietrich in performance, for the coronation of the shah of Iran and for Christian Dior haute couture.

“It was working with Jourdan and Roger Vivier that made me realize that shoe design was a real métier,” Louboutin says.

Exactly!

This it is exactly what the Manolo has been saying at his humble shoe blog, that the designing of the shoes, it is the craft, the art, one that is indeed most difficult to master. This it is why the shoes they are the objects worthy of our attention, because they can, in the hands of the master makers, truly be the art of the finest sort, the things that may bring us great joy through their beauty.

As for how one becomes first attuned to the beauty and potential of the shoes, it frequently has the genesis in the childhood, as it had with the Christian Louboutin

Louboutin can trace back his original creative “click.”

“As a child, I was taken to the musée des océans, and I saw a sign of a stiletto with two thick lines through it – and it haunted me,” says Louboutin, claiming that his schoolbooks were filled with drawings of the “no stiletto heels in here” sign. The images of Helmut Newton and the wild clubbing years in the 1980s at the Paris Le Palace cemented his fascination with shoes. Maybe it is significant that, apart from the splash of vermilion, the colors tend to be rich purples, smoky blues and moss greens, as if captured in Toulouse-Lautrec’s night world.

But Louboutin also makes daywear, from calf-hugging flat boots to platform-soled espadrilles that he encourages summer brides to wear, rather than spindly heels in which they cannot dance the night away.

“Luxury should not be anti-progress,” he says, referring to women’s freedom. “My idea of progress is to make shoes not higher, but ever finer.”

This it is why the Manolo the humble shoeblogger he adores the work of the Christian Louboutin, because he understands the shoe and the shoe-making perfectly.

10 Responses to “Menkes on Louboutin”

  1. Miachelle December 26, 2005 at 10:48 am #

    I would just love to be able to decorate the shoes!!! Ah, the pleasure!!!

  2. Never teh Bride December 26, 2005 at 3:52 pm #

    Personally, I am waiting for the return of the old fashioned cuban heel. Perhaps one day you could point me to a such a retro shoe!

  3. Le Retrosessuale December 26, 2005 at 7:25 pm #

    I ADORE the Cuban heel and own many a pair of vintage shoes sporting them. I recommend ebay’s vintage selections for finding the original article from the day when shoes were built to last (no pun intended) — and do indeed!

    A good designator to look for in item descriptions is NOS, which stands for New Old Stock — brand spanking new vintage shoes that were never sold and thus never worn.

  4. Annalucia December 27, 2005 at 9:11 am #

    The Annalucia, she has also sorely missed the Cuban heel, and she thanks Le Retrosessuale for the link to the vintage selections. She hopes that some of them are available in the wide sizes.

    And yes, it certainly started in the childhood for the Annalucia, who had very flat feet and was required to wear heavy lace-up Oxfords, for which she was cruelly taunted by the other girls who wore the black Mary Janes of the patent leather. (She has no doubt that each of them has come to a sticky end.) Today she is somewhat limited by the W attached to her shoe size as well as her inability to walk in any shoe with the heel height of more than two inches, but still she scans the catalogs and the online selections, looking for the Perfect Shoe beside which the glass slipper of the Cinderella will have all the charm of the dusty old tumbler.

  5. Hoochie Mama December 27, 2005 at 5:09 pm #

    Manolo! This thread is useless without pictures! The Louboutin, the Manolo, the Jourdan, etc., threads must always be accompanied by pictures! /end rant

  6. Justins December 27, 2005 at 5:30 pm #

    Even me, a 14 year old girl is facinated by this blog. Thankyou..you save the lives of many women.and girls for that matter.

  7. shoelover December 27, 2005 at 6:27 pm #

    I am still waiting for someone to bring back wooden Dutch shoes

  8. corrine December 30, 2005 at 12:42 pm #

    Louboutin is a pure genius. I wait for the day when i can actually afford a pair of his shoes! (or two!)

  9. piedmichael December 31, 2005 at 6:26 am #

    I so agree that the making of the shoes is a work of art. I went to the Manolo Blahnik exhibition in London a couple of years ago, and I’m not completely convinced I love his shoes as shoes, but as works of art they are the best. I like Gina of London shoes, by the way, very sexy…

  10. yoyozeppaholic December 14, 2006 at 7:25 pm #

    All very well said Manolo- I am currently in heaven because bergdorf goodman has the most unbelievable assortment of new spring Loubs I have ever seen- it is massive, and they even have my size- 12!!!! keep spreading the good word- LOVE your blog!