On the fourth floor of Bandra 190, a chic new place for lusty shoppers, is Christian Louboutin's new boutique. The walls are draped in chic Spartan style, with shoes: bling! for men, classic Louboutin for women.
You spot his signature on all of them: the famed red sole. Apparently, in 1993 he had just created a collection of Andy Warhol-inspired shoes with flowers on them. But there was something missing. As he studed the shoes, a girl nearby was painting her nails. He grabbed her stark red nail polish and painted the sole of the shoe. It was an eureka moment and lo! the red-soled signature was born.
Sole apart, Louboutin is known for creating a lust for shoes among women. His skyscraping stilettos have women queueing up outside his stores worldwide. A child of Paris, he started studying women's feet rather young. "My first creation of shoes was for showgirls," he says. "When you see them dancing down a flight of stairs, do you see them looking down? No. They have to have the comfort and confidence of height, because the feet guide the body. Feet dictate attitude, body language, posture, hand movements, everything." His first collection has prompted him to believe that it is the shoes that keep a woman grounded and give her flight. "Have you seen a woman trying out her shoes?" he asks. "When she puts it on, she goes to the mirror. What is she looking at? Not just the shoe but at the rest of her body. Her breasts, her ass, how the shoes are handling her body... If she likes the whole of her in that pair, she will buy it."
In the real world today, there is a political incorrectness attached to stilettos: Sky high heels spell boardroom bitches; unabashed ambition; women who wear their sensuality in their heels. It also means eventual bad back and varicose veins. And here is the man who revels in that one single piece of six inches that unleashes all of these emotions in women. How does he feel about the social backlash that stilettos have had? "This is a hangover of the '60s," he says, adding, "when the hippie generation's idea of freedom was walking barefoot." Stilettos were anathema to the era.
"I never could understand, and still don't, why some women believe in underplaying their feminity," he says. Why should a well-groomed woman be considered 'stupid' or 'shallow'? Is Tina Turner shallow? And yet, feminism labels 'feminity' as anti-feminist, he feels. While he still has to get his head around that, he continues to fight for the cause of sensuality of the stiletto. Luckily for him, the days of the de-glammed Joan Baez are over. From Britney Spears to Lady Gaga, it's showtime again!
It's one thing for a woman in showbiz to wear killer heels, but what about the thousands of women who're not made for dancing but still wear his labels? Doesn't comfort count? Or are his shoes the perfect pair ever made? "There is no such thing as a perfect pair of shoes," he says, looking at his own moccasins he's wearing, all beaded and tassled. "A woman who is confident in her pair of shoes has the perfect pair."
He quotes Christian Dior: "I want my shoes to appear and disappear", which means understated elegance.
According to him, your shoes shouldn't do the talking. They should merely reflect your elegance and your confidence. Which is why he is a great believer in strong nude shades. "Wear well-crafted shoes that make you look good and have one tone colour: your skin colour, whatever it may be. Which is why my shoes come in five shades of nude, to match the skin tone of every woman." He points out to the various shades of skin tone stilettos on the shelf, and yet sitting cheekily nearby are a row of dazzling shoes lit up by glitter and stones.
"A woman has many moods," he says. "I had three older sisters and at any given time, I felt I was dealing not with just three women, but 300 witches with rapidly changing moods and desires." His collection has a pair to match every mood. Is there a special collection for India? "I don't design keeping a particular trend in mind," he says. He prefers to create as and when he is inspired to. And inspiration for him could come from anywhere, from a Russian religious icon which translates into metallic shoes or a structure by Anish Kapoor, or the mustard fields in France. "I don't believe in trends and I am happy when I see a woman wearing a pair that's three years old. It says something about the shoes. It also says something about her. It says she's confident, and happy in her shoes. That makes me happy."