CHICAGO — It’s morning at the Four Seasons Allium restaurant here and Christian Louboutin, the shoe designer who has made red soles world-famous, is the only guy in the place wearing a beret — and fittingly, it’s in a scarlet shade of red.
Louboutin, who lives in Paris and just finished designing his spring 2020 collection in Brazil, is winding down after a three-stop tour with Nordstrom, which wrapped up at the Michigan Avenue store last Thursday, following Nashville and Los Angeles. He had planned to stay in Chicago for the weekend, but had to fly to Italy Friday afternoon.
Despite his jet-set life — he designs the summer collection in a place that is hot, such as Brazil or Egypt, where he has a boat on the Nile, and the winter collection in a place less hot “even according to the light” — Louboutin looks quite rested.
One gets the sense this Frenchman loves meeting the women — and men — who wear his red-soled shoes.
“It was very nice. Very nice,” said Louboutin about the Nordstrom event. “People were charming. It’s always nice and always interesting to see people because they end up wanting to tell me stories.”
About 90 people attended the Chicago event — it was the first time Louboutin made an appearance at the store. The guests waited in line, some for hours, for a chance to meet the designer, who spent a few minutes chatting with each one.
“Shoes are definitely a tool of communication between people,” Louboutin said. “A lot of girls were saying that it was a proposal, the date, wearing that shoe, the success of feeling empowered, etc. It always comes back to the fact that it gives a sense of great freedom and also being able to mingle with other people, etc. Even people who didn’t know each other who were queuing ended up becoming friends and asking pictures together, so it’s nice.”
With a self-processed love of objects that led the designer to enter the world of beauty, saying “there’s nothing really beautiful in the industry of beauty” and he set out to change that by bringing the “essence of beauty into the beauty industry,” he says everything he looks at can inspire him — even the chandelier hanging overhead at the Four Seasons.
“Once you are, once your brain is creative and always, comment dit on, boiling or something, anything you look at can be transformed,” Louboutin said. “So I have a bit of this bulimia of looking at things and then sort of trying to extract something from that chandelier. What is that chandelier, how could that chandelier become a shoe, for instance? It could be an ornament or the mother of pearl on it could actually be a beautiful type of leather. It’s nonstop, looking at things. You transform them. It’s a bit of a bulimia, it’s normal and it keeps the momentum, so it’s nice.”
One can’t talk about fashion these days without the name Virgil Abloh coming up and Louboutin had nothing but praise for the architect-turned-designer.
“The job he’s starting to do at Vuitton is really great, really, really great,” he said. “There was a lot of expectation and a lot of non-expectation like, ‘oh god,’ and he did a brilliant job. It’s really beautiful. I was sad because it was his first show and I was not in Paris. He was doing an exhibition, he was at the Gagosian, but my timing was not correct. I’ve been really sort of, I missed that because it looked really great.”
Louboutin’s yet-to-be-named hotel in Portugal is still on track, with construction slated to begin in April. There’s no targeted opening date, and the shoe guru maintains the project is not a business move and will “go with the flow.” One thing’s certain: his signature red will not play a role in the color scheme.
“It’s a hobby, you know, it’s a hobby,” he said. “I’m starting to build a hotel but it’s definitely a hobby. It’s a good thing. It’s nothing but a hobby.”
Still, he points out the interior details of the space might inspire his designing shoes.
“It’s nice because you know full architecture and interior decorations. There are a lot of elements which you know are important when you are creating things, so again it’s bouncing back,” he said. “It’s not linked in a way but at the same time it bounces back a lot of details of architecture.”
Details like the cornice, which he explained, “once it’s leather, it can be very nice” or the tiles, which “could be a buckle.” “You have a lot of elements in architecture which can be brought back to the shoes and leather goods,” he noted.
Shoes, beauty, now a hotel, what about apparel?
“No, that’s for sure. That’s for sure,” Louboutin said. “For the moment, I’m perfectly happy and I’m perfectly busy.”