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Men'sWeek issue 09/08/2011

PARIS — Many Paris boutiques close during the August doldrums. Christian Louboutin used the occasion to quietly open his first men’s shop in the world here in the Galerie Véro-Dodat — and already he’s been selling some 25 pairs of shoes a day.

This story first appeared in the September 8, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Emboldened by the robust response, he said he soon plans to open a dedicated men’s boutique in New York, not far from his Horatio Street location, and another in London’s Mayfair district.

“They come in and they say, ‘What do you have with studs?’” Louboutin related Wednesday, sliding his feet into a pair of black loafers, the vamp sprouting dozens of bulbous tassels instead of the usual two.

Prized for his red soles, sexy platforms and inimitable French touch with women’s shoes, Louboutin started a men’s collection somewhat by chance.

He attended the superhero-themed Costume Institute ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2008 wearing a pair of loafers pavéd in conical silver studs, which caused a sensation and yielded a spate of requests for special orders. “After 15 pairs, I thought, ‘Let’s do a production of them,’” he said.

Today, Louboutin sells men’s shoes in 34 of his worldwide network of 44 boutiques as well as a handful of wholesale accounts, and is planning to expand his men’s offering to include bags.

The 750-square-foot Paris boutique is across the covered passageway from his women’s shop, which opened 20 years ago. It sets the template for future men’s outposts with its rustic colors, rugged fixtures and intergalactic touches.

Designed by architect Eric Clough, with studded leather floors by Mexican design purveyor Chic by Accident and leather wall panels embroidered by Jean-François Lesage, the luxuriously eclectic store features vintage airplane-seat armchairs, an original “Star Trek” table-and-chair set, a patchwork tin ceiling, and an embroidered “leopard-skin” rug.

Best-selling styles include high-top sneakers: 695 euros, or $993 at current exchange rates, for a studded version; 1,595 euros, or $2,278, for ones pavéd in crystals; and his Rollerboy studded loafers for 895 euros, or $1,278.

A neon sign glows above the store’s “Tattoo” room, housing even fancier styles, including patent loafers embroidered with pearl tassels retailing for 1,495 euros, or $2,135.

Here, Louboutin plans a made-to-order service offering men the chance to have their emblematic tattoos — which he describes as a modern-day version of family crests — embroidered onto shoes, a service which will take about three months.

Photos of his heavily inked Welsh rugby buddy Gareth Thomas will shortly adorn the walls.

“What we sell is quite exceptional. The customer here is not attached necessarily to old traditions,” Louboutin said, citing a young, plugged-in clientele, some of whom are rabid collectors and buy in multiples.

“I’m the same way. If I like a pair of shoes, I’m going to buy two pairs,” said the designer, whose footwear wardrobe numbers around 300 to 400 pairs. “I do see men getting excited about shoes, which is nice.”

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