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Christian Louboutin has big plans for his men’s collection, with a men’s-only store opening this summer in New York’s West Village, to be followed by boutiques in Los Angeles, Miami and London. Not bad when you consider that he fell into the men’s business by accident.
The celebrated French shoe designer, best known for his sexy red-soled stilettos, says it all started with an ill-fitting pair of loafers.
Not long after he launched his business 20 years ago, as Louboutin tells it, a proper French woman came to him looking for a pair. She admitted, however, that her feet were so large that she had a hard time finding shoes that fit. “How big?” Louboutin asked. The wrong question. “You don’t ask a woman her age, and you don’t ask a woman her shoe size,” the client replied indignantly. Losing patience, he suggested that she write her size on a piece of paper. It was 13 1/2. Louboutin didn’t even have lasts that large, but he set out to create shoes for her anyway. When they were finished, he presented them proudly and waited for her reaction. “She tried it on and said she’d never put on a shoe that was too big before,” he says. “She thanked me and walked out. I was ready to kill her.”
But a friend heard the story and bought the loafers as a present for her husband. They were a perfect fit—and Louboutin was in the men’s business.
Many years later, his footwear has become a must-have for men. Last year, the designer opened his first dedicated men’s boutique in Paris in the Galerie Véro-Dodat. At a pop-up shop at Selfridges in London this spring, men’s shoes outsold women’s. As Louboutin says, remembering one of his least favorite clients, “In every cloud, there is a silver side.”