Even if you’re not a fashion fan, you’ve probably heard the name Christian Louboutin, the Parisian designer at least partially responsible for the global obsession with stilettos. The phenomenon was perhaps most dashingly embodied in the famous HBO TV series Sex and the City , with fashionista Carrie Bradshaw memorably gushing “hello lover” at a sexy pair of heels in a Louboutin boutique window. The signature red-lacquered soles, now one of the most recognisable fashion emblems, has become a sign of unparalleled confidence, sexiness and power since Louboutin first created them – by accident – in 1992. Where are the Sex and the City ladies today? Like the shoes he creates, the designer projects forthright happiness and confidence in our Zoom call. “Fashion is a tool of communication and designers communicate happiness – putting a smile on people’s faces when they wear your designs,” the 58-year-old enthuses. “It becomes difficult to communicate happiness if you are not really happy with yourself.” More than this, to Louboutin, fashion can also make unheard voices heard. In June 2021, a year after the tragedy of George Floyd’s murder, the designer collaborated with Hollywood power couple Idris and Sabrina Elba on the Walk a Mile in My Shoes capsule collection, his bid to raise awareness around issues of justice and equality, and benefit individuals and communities whose voices are often unheard. Fashion used to be very elitist in the 60s to 70s. Today it has become democratic, a huge tool of communication … The fashion community has expanded, and that is a good thing Christian Louboutin The Elbas, who are close friends of Louboutin, are active figures in the Black Lives Matter movement . The trio quickly agreed on the significance and timing of the collection’s release – a year after Floyd’s death – to refresh people’s memories and feelings. Drawing inspiration from historic activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, the collection embodies freedom, equality and justice. It includes Louboutin’s signature stilettos and handbags, as well as men’s lace-up leather shoes and trainers, all printed with the slogan “Walk a Mile in My Shoes”. All proceeds from the partnership will benefit five charities selected by the shoe designer and the Elbas. Why do so many A-listers love René Caovilla heels? “We live in a world that is changing very fast and overwhelmed by information. Things get forgotten very fast and some things should not be forgotten that quickly. We thought that some things should not just be information, but stay in your memory, so things can get better,” explains Louboutin. “That is the construction for the collection, to remind in a positive way that things like heavy violence for nothing should not be tolerable. It’s important for us to do that. Life is better when it’s better for everyone.” The designer has also expanded the brand’s nude tone to encompass eight complexion colours. “Fashion used to be very elitist in the 60s to 70s. Today it has become democratic, a huge tool of communication between so many different communities, an expression of singularity, representing interests from so many countries. The fashion community has expanded, and that is a good thing,” notes Louboutin. Born in Paris in 1963, Louboutin grew up with three sisters, which gave him an early perspective on the experiences and desires of women. The shoemaker started sketching footwear in his teens and later apprenticed for another master shoemaker, Roger Vivier. He produced designs for various maisons including Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent as a freelancer, then established his own shoe business in the early 90s, a time when lots of women were still dressed in monochrome colours. Louboutin stepped in and injected a splash of scarlet red, a tone he deemed universal, onto their soles. His earliest customers included Princess Charlene of Monaco and today his clientele has expanded to international royals and Hollywood A-listers. “A woman has many facets, one person has so many personas based on different situations. And that is great,” says the designer. Even though his most well-known designs are often associated with hyper-femininity and sexiness, Louboutin was a trailblazer in the now-billion-dollar trainers field. “It’s amazing people now realise I did trainers 25 years ago, and boot pants back in the 90s,” says Louboutin. Shoes: the devil is in the (ankle) detail – just ask Kylie Jenner From June 2020 until January this year, an exhibition dubbed “Christian Louboutin: L’Exhibition[nist]” hosted at Paris’ Palais de La Porte Dorée, took a retrospective look at the designer’s creative vision over the past decades. On display were some of his most inventive creations – traced from sketches to finished shoes – many of which had never been exhibited before, including his fishskin Maquereau shoe from 1987. “I love the laboratory, one-of-a-kind pieces because it gives me space to breathe. It’s important for me when designing, to leave design free and not to think of the business side of it,” he explains. “If you start at the beginning of the drawings, you reduce the capacity of dreaming in your style. The longevity of creativity is when you remain true to yourself and you keep having the enthusiasm you need to really do great designs. I can assure you that my enthusiasm is fully intact.” The exhibition will soon travel to cities in China, an ever more significant market and one devoted to his designs. Having branched out into men’s footwear, handbags, fragrances and make-up, the Louboutin universe is fast expanding. In March 2021, Italy’s billionaire Agnelli family took a 24 per cent stake in the Christian Louboutin empire for €541 million (US$634 million), valuing the whole company at US$2.64 billion. He may have designed shoes for many of the rich and famous , but Louboutin says he doesn’t have a specific muse. “I’m inspired by survivors. When I say survivors, it’s the type of mentality of people who are not blocked into one single world and can survive in different environments, people who know how to react to different situations,” he adds after a pause. “That is the muse when I always think of the Louboutin design.” Milestones 1981: Assembled a portfolio of drawings of high heels and worked an apprenticeship with Roger Vivier. 1991: Opened his first shoe salon in Paris. 1992: Created the signature red-soled stiletto heel after painting his assistant’s shoe with red nail polish. Street chic: stylish shoes and handbags just in time for autumn 2003: Expanded the Louboutin range beyond shoes into handbags and purses. 2007: Collaborated with David Lynch in an exhibition project “Fetish”, a photographic collection showing shoes as erotic sculptures. 2011: Became the most searched shoe brand online. 2012: Commissioned by Disney to create a modern-day Cinderella-inspired slipper, releasing only 20 pairs from the collection. 2014: Released a range of nail polishes, in particular the brand’s signature red shade Rouge Louboutin. 2016: Released three perfumes: Bikini Questa Sera, Tornade Blonde and Trouble in Heaven. 2017: Expanded the Louboutin lipstick range all the way to 38 tones. 2020: Created Loubi World, an online platform where guests can create avatars with facial recognition, as well as select a variety of shoes and accessories to interact with virtual landmarks. 2021: Louboutin’s autumn collection Loubi Airways is inspired by travelling and features a large range of heel heights and shoe silhouettes.