I’ll admit that I’ve always been mystified by designer shoes. The logic of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to wear what amounts to not just one spiky torture device but two is totally lost on me. Still, I can appreciate Christian Louboutin—he of the glossy scarlet soles and the slender, towering stilettos—on pure aesthetic grounds. As a forthcoming exhibit at the Design Museum in London shows, the guy knows how to make a hot shoe.
Christian Louboutin surveys 20 years of the French fashion icon’s footwear designs, from lace-up boots and studded sneakers to crystal-encrusted stilettos and sky-high fetish heels that’d make Betty Paige blush. "Louboutin’s shoes are the epitome of style, glamour, power, femininity and elegance," the museum says. And all the right people seem to agree: Madge and Lady Gaga count among Louboutin’s loyal boldface fans.
But his success was hardly a shoo-in (pardon the pun). He wasn’t formally trained, and before he started his own brand in 1991, he worked as a garden designer. During his teenage years, he hung around stage doors in Paris and took an internship sewing buttons and feathers at Folies Bergère—experiences that no doubt shaped his theatrical sensibility. His genius has been to take the oozing sex appeal of showgirls and cabaret and turn it into a footwear empire. Louboutin is clearly some kind of artist. Now if he could just figure out how to make a 6-inch heel comfortable, that’d really be a work of art.
[Images courtesy of the Design Museum]