“When you look at my designs, I don’t want you to think ‘Oh! How comfortable it is!”
Christian Louboutin was responding to a comment he had made in a 2011 New Yorker profile likening comfortable footwear to a bad relationship. On Saturday, Louboutin sat down with Lauren Collins, the writer who had done the piece, for the New Yorker Festival event we wrote about not long ago. A hoard of well-heeled men and women turned out to the Directors Guild Theatre to hear the shoe designer talk fish, minimalism, and why he will never do a Breast Cancer Awareness stiletto.
The delightful Ms. Collins (who you can see talking about vomiting on Donatella Versace here) spoke with Monsieur Louboutin about his earliest job at fabled Parisian music hall the Folies Bergère. Young Christian helped the showgirls backstage, running errands for them and stitching costumes. “I just wanted to design shoes for these weird birds!” He recalled being sent to fetch pound upon pound of veal carpaccio for the dancers, and finally, baffled, asking why they consumed so much veal. “’Stupid! We don’t eat it!’,” they told him. The women were using the carpaccio as a sort of proto-insole for their towering heels.
Discussion turned to Louboutin’s design philosophy. “Often when people talk of minimalism, it is just nothing, it is just all white,” he remarked. He lives for “le petit quelque chose qui fout tout par terre”—the little thing that f*cks everything up, and the unexpectedly witty. Blake Lively and Sarah Jessica Parker have both sported his lion’s paw pumps. A slide was shown of a pair of heels, classic in every way, even understated by Louboutin platform-worshipping standards, covered entirely in mackerel skin. The designer, who is allergic to fish, recalled shopping for the most aesthetically pleasing colors in a Parisian fish market. He spoke of a love of the “complex symmetry of fish” but mourned the lost iridescence that comes with drying the skin.
A question and answer period began. Men and women flocked to the microphones in either aisle, some flashing red soles as they walked. One woman asked if Mr. Louboutin would ever consider doing a pink-soled shoe in honor of breast cancer awareness. “No,” he responded. “No, my trademark is red, and it would be wicked to do otherwise.” Particularly in the wake of his successful lawsuit that established the red lacquered underside as a Louboutin trademark.
A young woman asked if there were particular designers whose work he hoped his shoes would be worn with. But no. “When I’m drawing, if I’m drawing more than her legs, the girl is naked.”
And here, straight from the mouth of the master himself, some advice on how to clean dusty suede: take a casserole full of boiling water and, holding the shoe in the steam above the water, gently brush the suede. Louboutin Pro Tip!
One aspiring entrepreneur asked for any sage words about business. Sans pause, Louboutin told him, “I never had a plan. Why bother to have all those plans when it’s probably going to change anyway? I’m actually glad that I didn’t because I enjoyed every day of it.”
Photo: Getty Images for The New Yorker