The naked truth

Christian Louboutin reveals plans for a Houston store and how he designs all those outrageous shoes

Christian Louboutin reveals plans for a Houston store and how he designs all those outrageous shoes

During Christian Louboutin's recent whirlwind visit, the shoe designer extraordinare revealed that he is eyeing Houston for a stand-alone boutique. 

Surrounded by shoes in every shape, which he was furiously signing during an interview with CultureMap at the Saks Fifth Avenue Fifth Avenue Club on the second level before heading downstairs to meet customers, Louboutin said he is looking to open a store in Houston in 2014. 

He currently has a stand-alone store in Dallas (at Highland Park Village) while his women's shoes, which range from $600 to $6,000, continue to be available at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman-Marcus, among other stores.

 "Outside of America, people think of Texas as a very masculine state, but there is something alsorvery feminine about it." 

"Outside of America, people think of Texas as a very masculine state, but there is something also very feminine about it," he said. "Texans are very warm and super friendly."

Louboutin, who opened his Paris store 20 years ago with Princess Caroline of Monaco as his first customer, has attracted a large and loyal clientele for his shoes, which range from the practical to the very whimsical.

"They're just sexy," explained a women near the front of the line at Saks to have her shoes signed (she declined to give her name because she skipped work to meet Louboutin). "You can find something classic to wear or something off the wall that really stands out and people notice."

And the distinctive red soles have become an instantly recognizable feature. "There's something about that red (sole) that gives you confidence," said the customer, who arrived at the store when it opened at 10 am for the noon signing.

The line was so long that Louboutin signed shoes for five hours.

In 1992, Loutboutin impulsively painted the soles of a pair of shoes with his assistant's bright nail polish glossy lacquer to give them more energy, and the feature became a definining trademark that he furiously defends. Last year, he filed suit to prevent Yves Saint Laurent from selling a shoe with red soles. A U.S. appeals court judge ruled that Louboutin’s red sole is entitled to limited trademark protection, although it allowed YSL the right to produced a monocromatic shoe if the sole and shoe are the same color. 

 "He designs for women when they are naked. He doesn't want the clothes to get in the way," Frasch recalled. 

Louboutin said he was happy to have the suit out of the way and saw it as a victory for "anyone with an identity."

He has also now creates men's shoes and, during the interview, sported a pair of spiffy white lace-up dress shoes with silver wing tips. He started out by designing shoes for the singer Mika and now has a shop in New York that sells his men's designs exclusively. 

Louboutin is clear on the difference between how men and women view shoes. "Men like to keep their shoes forever," he said. "There is not a woman who is proud to own a pair of shoes for 20 years."

Saks president and chief merchandising officer Ron Frasch believes Louboutin has been so successful because of his love of the fantasy side of design. "Shoes are are an easier place to do that. It's not how tall you are or what your weight is. Shoes are shoes. He understands and transports his customer to a more exciting place," Frasch said.

During a morning meeting with Saks staffers, Louboutin was asked if he has a muse. He said not only does he not have a muse, he doesn't think about clothes. "He said he designs for women when they are naked. He doesn't want the clothes to get in the way," Frasch recalled.

Louboutin, signing shoes, October 2012
Christian Louboutin signs shoes for a customer during an appearance at the Saks Fifth Avenue Galleria store. Photo by Karen Choi