Renowned for his iconic Pigalle heels along with the red-lacquered soles, Christian Louboutin is no stranger in the fashion world. For someone who decided to drop out of school and run away from home at the tender age of 12, Louboutin is a force to be reckoned with. Born on January 7, 1964 and raised in the 12th arrondissement in Paris, the successful French footwear designer is the product of a passionate affair between his mother and an Egyptian man, which explains his significantly darker skin tone. Refusing to feel like an outsider and being the creative child he was, Louboutin invented his own history inside his mind, complete with Egyptian characters like the pharaohs.
Though Louboutin had already been sketching shoes in his early teens, it wasn’t until 1976 when he first started being fascinated by footwear. The young Louboutin had visited the Musee national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Oceanie, where he saw an African sign forbidding women who wear sharp stilettos from entering a building to avoid damaging the wood flooring. This serendipitous encounter served as an inspiration for Louboutin when he began designing his shoes several years later, with a mission to “create something that broke rules and made women feel confident and empowered,” he once said. The rebel in Louboutin is reflected through his many aesthetic, and sometimes outrageous, designs.
Prior to working for several designers, Louboutin’s first job included assisting the entertainers backstage at Folies Bergeres, a cabaret music hall in Paris. He also appeared in a few films during his Punk phase in the 70s, such as The Homosexual Century and Race d’ep. Upon returning from his trip to Egypt and India, where he spent a year there, Louboutin compiled all of his high heel drawings in a portfolio and sought employment at top couture houses he’d set his sights on. He was eventually hired by Charles Jourdan, and later became an apprentice for Roger Vivier. Louboutin went on to be a freelance designer for Yves Saint Laurent, Maud Frizon, and Chanel before taking a stint as a landscape gardener during the late 80s.
In 1991, the determined designer finally set up his own company, which was backed by a couple of funders, counting Princess Caroline of Monaco as his first customer. Thanks to the princess’ positive remarks about Loboutin’s shoe salon in Paris, it has catapulted Louboutin into fashion stardom, with many famous names following suit to get a pair of his fabulous stilettos, including French actress Catherine Deneuve and designer Diane von Furstenberg. Today, Louboutin’s A-list customers include Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tina Turner, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who wore a pair of Louboutin’s at her wedding.
Louboutin’s creations tend to be 4 inches and higher, with his iconic red soles inspired by an employee’s nail polish. This signature look of his has been legally trademarked in a few countries. While most of Louboutin’s shoes have red soles, there are also several designs of his that come in blue soles, though they’re only available for a limited time and can only be purchased through a special order. To date, his most expensive creation was a pair of stilettos paved in rubies for one of his clients, which was said to have cost over $1 million. Besides designing shoes and bags for women, Louboutin also designs for men, and launched his own beauty products and perfume.