How ironic to be staring blankly at a “No Heels Allowed” signboard at an exhibition fêting an iconic shoe designer. It was just days before Paris Fashion Week, and naturally, I had worn my best four-inch metallic slingbacks to discover Christian Louboutin's largest-ever vernissage, at the Palais de la Porte Doreé. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself, looking down at my own pair of heels, wondering if I was going to be allowed in for fear of diminishing the antique wooden floors. Little did I realise that this wasn’t just any ordinary signboard. As it turns out, it was the starting point of the shoemaker’s glittering career, his journey imaginatively explored through a retrospective held at an institution so dear to him.
“When I first discovered the signboard at the Palais—a child at that time—I was confused as to why it was designed like that,” Louboutin opens this interview. “It was unlike anything I had ever seen before, especially back then when heels were just no more than two inches high. It left such an impression on me, that it later became the blueprint of a shoe I designed.” This shoe in question is none other than the Pigalle, the five-inch heeled stiletto which since its introduction in Autumn/Winter ’04, has adorned Hollywood glitterati and musicians from Angelina Jolie to Madonna, as well as every fashionista worth their red soles.
Standing at the same spot Louboutin had once stood as a child, it dawned upon me how inspirations can strike even from the unlikeliest of places. But, it isn’t just signboards and oceanic artefacts that inspire his immense imagination. Making my way through the museum’s creaky floors, a large selection of historic and artistic pieces stood before me, including ones crafted from fish scales, and another designed with the late Princess Diana in mind. Elsewhere, stained glass panels created in collaboration with Maison du Vitrail immortalised the designer’s most early works, the Pensée, while in another, a larger-than-life Sevillian silver palanquin made by L’Orfebreria Villarreal canonised a glass shoe, trapped in a plexi-ice sculpture. “In this exhibition, I wanted to showcase all the artisans and artists that I love, and who I have worked with,” said Louboutin. You may see a bridge connecting my work and all these other things which I love, or you may not. Which is fine all the same, as the idea of this exhibition is to give pleasure by showing beautiful things, which have all been very inspirational to me.”
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