Christian Louboutin is on a well-heeled retail march across the globe.
This month, the Paris-based brand is opening men’s stores in Los Angeles and London and dual-gender stores in Chicago and São Paulo, Brazil. The new stores are indicative of the company’s strategy to grow its retail presence that has resulted in the number of units increasing from 17 in 2009 to roughly 65 today, and retail contributing half the brand’s revenues.
“A store gives us much better opportunity to present not only the collection, but also the brand the way Christian wants to express it,” said Alexis Mourot, chief operating officer and general manager of Christian Louboutin. “Every time we open a store, not only do we gain customers, but we service the existing customer base more. Most of the time, the business doesn’t go down in department stores. Usually, the market goes up.”
The men’s stores have been somewhat of a revelation for Louboutin. Originally men’s styles were personal gifts that Louboutin made for friends, but he began to detect men wanted to enjoy shopping like the women in their lives. The brand launched a men’s collection in 2010 before entering men’s retail with the first men’s store worldwide in Paris in September 2011 and the first men’s store in the U.S. in New York in August.
“When men come to my men’s store for men’s shoes, they are not coming with the idea of getting a leather shoe they are going to keep forever and give to their son. They are coming for the excitement,” said Louboutin. “There was this idea that men have been completely different from women in the way they were approaching shoes, but now there is this type of guy, who is not necessarily gay, funny enough, that really wants to shop like a woman.”
Louboutin hasn’t strayed from the real estate that has worked for its stores so far and places men’s stores near its women’s stores. In Paris, the men’s store is across the street from the brand’s oldest store on Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Similarly, in Los Angeles, the new 980-square-foot men’s shop is across the street from a women’s store on Robertson Boulevard and, in London, the 560-square-foot men’s store on Dover Street is close to Louboutin’s flagship on Mount Street.
Louboutin has been surprised by how quickly men’s retail has caught on. Mourot said men’s is less than 10 percent of the overall business but is on track to hit 20 percent in coming years. “When we first opened the men’s store in Paris it was in August, and Paris is not a city which is very alive in August. There was not even a soft opening. It just opened the day it was ready, but the incredible part was that it became really packed literally the first day. We didn’t know what was happening. We thought it was an accident and it would slow down, but it hasn’t slowed down for more than a year,” said Louboutin.
Apparently, Louboutin’s male shopper isn’t shy about fashion. “There is nothing too embellished and no price range,” said Louboutin. “My first surprise was to have sneakers completely covered in black crystals gone. Everything which is highly embellished and embroidered, gone. There hasn’t been any limit.”
Designed with New York firm 212box, which the brand has tapped for its dual-gender stores as well, Louboutin described the men’s stores as inspired by apartments of men who travel extensively and collect objects along the way. One such object is the rug decorating the floor embroidered to look like tiger skins by Jean-François Lesage. In keeping with the masculine theme, stores feature diamond-paneled leather walls, red carpet in a shade deeper than the usual Louboutin red and a so-called Tattoo Parlor, where customers starting this holiday season will be able to replicate their personal tattoos on shoes.
Speaking about the materials selected for the men’s stores, Eric Clough, principal designer at 212box, said, “We really tried to use every leather process a shoemaker would use — with textures varying from lambskin to rawhide.”
In both men’s and women’s, Louboutin stores have been experiencing comparable-store sales increases in the single to double digits this year, according to Mourot. Responsible for 40 percent of the brand’s business, the U.S. remains a dominant sales driver, although its percentage of total sales has shrunk as Louboutin has spread worldwide. This fiscal year, which ends in August, the brand expects to open 14 to 15 stores, including three or four men’s stores. Privately owned Louboutin has annual sales volume of over $300 million.
On top of its Los Angeles, London and Chicago stores bowing this month, Louboutin is opening a 330-square-foot boutique (most of the brand’s stores average 1,500 square feet) at the JK Iguatemi shopping center in São Paulo, its third in the country. After that store, Mourot doesn’t anticipate additional retail in Brazil.
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
How does a “regular, degular, schmegular” girl from the Bronx, N.Y., become a Grammy-nominated artist with a certified platinum record in less than a year? Call it the @iamcardib come up. The 25-year-old has become a musical sensation, and the fashion world is taking note. “If I could describe her style I would say drama. She’s really into the dramatics,” says Cardi B’s stylist @kollincarter. See how Carter styles her bold and out there looks with the link in bio. #wwdfashion
“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion