Is the success of Louboutin down to the designs or the iconic red sole? Jake Pummintr answers.
For anyone with the slightest regard for fashion (or even for those without), it is plausible to contend that upon mentioning of the word “Paris” in a fashion context, all things Dior, Chanel, Lanvin, Balmain and Louboutin come to mind (to name but a few). Since the Parisian designer Christian Louboutin, first painted the bottom of one of his shoe designs with his assistant’s China-red nail polish in 1992, the house of Louboutin has followed with twenty-two years of cumulative success into what is unquestionably one of the most coveted brands in the industry today.
Whilst Louboutin is known more famously for its exquisitely decadent collections of towering heels for women, the year 2011 saw the launch of a menswear capsule collection at a small but charmingly exclusive store in Paris. The question at the head of the table though is as follows: How can the tremendous success of a womenswear brand of high-heels translate suitably into the same for men? Is it a case of resting upon the reputation from what it had already successfully achieved? Or rather, does it reside in the simple matter of brand recognition and the red sole?
Like the vast majority of super-luxury brands, their allure and appeal lies within the story behind the products or the process in which the items are produced. Known publicly as a shoe fetishist, Louboutin explains in an interview with Time that, “when a woman puts on a heel, she has a different posture, a different attitude… She really stands up and has a consciousness of her body.” Thus, this concentration on the female form and the lines it creates when in a pair of rocketing heels is thoroughly sexual. Likewise, the designer also stated that any woman wearing his shoes is saying Suivez-moi, jeune home (“Follow me, young man”). This goes further in that in the film and television industries of today, it is commonplace for the hybrid femme fatale character to be wearing her own Louboutins. Take, for instance, the typical example of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and The City or Blair Waldorf and Serena Van Der Woodsen from Gossip Girl and most recently, Claire Underwood from House of Cards. So, what we have is millions of women buying into the fascinating history and blatantly sexual and empowering principles of the brand. And why not? But does this carry any relevance for men?
With this in mind then, the issue of the success of the menswear side of the brand takes to the stage. There are the cynics who believe that this success comes only as an outcome of the red soles as the means by which someone can plainly exhibit the brands that they are wearing to the rest of the world; an example perhaps of someone concerned more with the labels, as opposed to the artistic endeavour behind them. This minority example however, does not resonate. Why is wearing a pair of Louboutins scrutinised any more than wearing a logoed t-shirt with the Nike ‘tick’ across its exterior, or the scull-print scarf by Alexander McQueen? In short, it should not be.
The designs speak for themselves. Ranging from casual espadrilles with a not-so-casual entry point price tag of £295 to a pair of velour studded high-tops in bright aqua tones to a more conservative Oxford brogue in black velvet; the menswear collection has just as much of the energy and brashness that is identifiable to Louboutin, as its female counterpart. That is not to say that the red sole plays no part in the success of the brand, but it is less about the presence of the red sole itself and more about how the intermittent flashes of colour contribute creatively as one component in a whole ensemble that someone has put together. Fashion is wearable art that incorporates architecture, design and utility in the same place. It is about movement and the famous Louboutin trademark flashes into sight when the wearer is walking. All that the success of the menswear collection will exhibit is that Louboutin created something that no designer had done before.