French shoe designer Christian Louboutin’s designs are displayed during a press preview of his exhibition in Paris on Friday. Picture: REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER
French shoe designer Christian Louboutin’s designs are displayed during a press preview of his exhibition in Paris on Friday. Picture: REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER

Paris — The Paris building that inspired shoemaker Christian Louboutin’s obsession with stiletto heels is, nearly half a century later, home to a retrospective on his career.

Louboutin — best known for producing shoes with soles painted lipstick-red — used to go to the Palais de la Porte Doree to look at exhibitions when he was a boy. He remembers a sign with a picture of a spike-heeled shoe with a red line through it, banning women from wearing stilettos to protect the wooden floors.

He spent hours reproducing that image in his sketchbooks, laying the foundations for his career as a designer. “I owe a lot to the drawing,” he said. “I reproduced it a lot, changing the colours a bit, changing the form a bit, but I always drew ... a shoe in profile, without knowing that it could be a profession.”

After an apprenticeship with Paris fashion houses, Louboutin set up his own brand and a shop in 1991. He attracted a line-up of high-profile customers including film stars, musicians and royals. While working on one prototype, he saw someone next to him painting their nails, borrowed their varnish and tried putting some of it on the sole.

“It was a revelation,” he said. “It became a trademark and I’m happy that I kept it.”

The exhibition, entitled Christian Louboutin l’Exhibition, showcases the inspirations behind the designer’s work, landmarks in his career, and contemporary artists who have reinterpreted his work. Exhibits include the sign that inspired him and the shoes worn by his first high-profile client, Princess Caroline of Monaco. There is a whole room devoted to his “nude” shoes that match the wearer’s skin tone. One intricate installation crafted out of silver has a giant crystal shoe at its centre.

Another section is dedicated to photos that filmmaker David Lynch took of Louboutin’s shoes, depicting them as sexualised fetish objects. “I am not a fetishist but I can understand that in my work there are elements one can fetishise,” Louboutin said.

The exhibition opens on February 26.

Reuters