In conversation with Christian Louboutin
The lockdown was a relief for Christian Louboutin. A welcome break to reflect on thirty years of his shoe design. The designer, known for the red sole, shows his colors. "Before, I had too little time to think about sustainability and I mainly went along with the moment." A conversation about vision, roots and future. Two weeks after his retrospective exhibition L'Exhibitioniste opened in Paris at the end of February, the doors closed again. "It was like a fairy tale, à la Sleeping Beauty. The exhibition froze in the middle of winter and opened again in June without losing any of its topicality. ”The exhibition, which can be viewed until 3 January, is like 'a universe' where the shoe as a 'sacred object' is the common thread. is the creation of the French shoe designer for thirty years. The lockdown actually came as 'just called', says the designer from his studio in Paris with a strong French accent. Glasses adorn his forehead above a Mickey Mouse print t-shirt. Behind him on a cork notice board, Dolly Parton smiles into the camera.
Tell me how did you experience that period of stagnation?
"For me, the period of the lockdown was mostly positive. Of course, from a business point of view, this year presents many challenges. But I prefer to look at it rosy: it is a time of introspection. That obligatory pause for thought was pretty much the first in my career for me. Finally a breather. Time to reset and challenge myself again. "
What did that look bring in?
"I am a slow motion thinker. I need time for a change, want to be able to sleep on something overnight, rethink it. The retrospective on thirty years of work is reflected in various chapters. It is now time for a new chapter. My work will not change, but my process and approach do require change. Perhaps it is time to travel less and become more sustainable. Looking back, I didn't have enough time to think about these things. "
Sustainability has long been en vogue, hasn't it?
"Everyone talks about sustainability, that's true. But I don't want to fall into the marketing trap. Words like "sustainable" or "organic" sound great, but there is often a void behind them. I take it seriously and that means it takes time. I would like to do it well, instead of claiming to be sustainable because, for example, we use a different kind of leather. "
No vegan leather for Louboutin?
"It's about looking further. It is nice that some plants can replace leather. But if you have to cut down forests to plant those plants and then need a lot of water to make them grow, I don't think that's sustainable. Sustainability requires a thorough evaluation. Concepts such as vegan and fake leather fall short in this. Research on how to make less impact on the planet is at the heart of the new chapter. "
"A petit café, please."
Louboutin puts the receiver down on his desk as quickly as he picks it up. Behind him is an iconic patent leather stiletto, black with red sole, the heel about six centimeters high. He drinks his coffee black – and "not too hot".
Has your view of the planet changed this year?
"I feel that nature has sent us a lot of signals this year. Think of the water in Venice that was suddenly transparent. And also the sea that I look out on from my apartment in Rio de Janeiro. I've never seen the water so clear. Animals came back into the city… The power of nature to restore is immense. That gives me a lot of hope. We have the ability to change and transform what we have previously damaged. But that hope also requires responsibility and other choices. "
Thirty years of shoe design have passed. What will the future bring?
"This year stands for reflection. I am processing everything and trying to release new projects & new designs.