of designer Christian Louboutin's shoes.
Louboutin is a long way from veal cutlets.
the upcoming 25th anniversary of his trademark
red-soled, luxury shoe brand, the French designer
remembered a lesson learned from an early job, as a
teenage apprentice at the famed Paris music hall the
Folies-Bergere. The showgirls, he said, were always
asking him to buy veal cutlets.
thought, my god, everyoneís been eating so many veal
cutlets ó itís so bizarre!" he recalled. But as
it turned out, the performers werenít consuming the
meat but placing it in their high-heeled shoes as a
cushioning pad. It needed to be white meat, not red, he
said, "so when you were dancing on the cushion,
thereís no blood coming out."
young Louboutin watched and learned. "I ended up
not putting any veal in my shoes," he said,
"but some techniques are actually important when
you work on high heels."
1991, Louboutin has gone from a single Paris storefront
with a small initial collection (the first shoes he
sketched for his line, he said, was a pair of womenís
flats with "Love" inscribed on them) to a
worldwide success, with more than 100 boutiques selling
womenís and menís shoes, leather goods and beauty
products. (The latter, begun in 2014, was an obvious
direction for him: His shoesí famous red soles, the
story goes, were inspired in 1992 by the sight of his
assistant painting her nails at her desk.)
heís watched, over the years, as heel heights have
climbed. "Itís funny, because the idea of high
heels was very different in the í90s," he said.
"When I was doing 9 centimeters (about 3.5 inches),
people were like, ĎThatís so high!í And now, itís
literally a mid-heel." His heels now might go as
high as 5 inches ó or more if the shoe has a platform.
They are, he says, as comfortable as possible
(cutlet-like cushioning is placed where possible) ó
but design is paramount. "Comfortable is not my
shoes are expensive (a simple pump might be near $700)
because of the elaborate handwork required to create
them; each shoe requires "almost 100 types of
manipulation" after the drawing stage.
cost, he said, is like that of fine wine. "You can
have a bottle of wine that costs you $5, and then a
bottle of wine that costs you $150. The difference is
not in the shape of the bottle, itís not in the color
of whatís in the bottle but in the attention to the
the years, heís crafted footwear ranging from those
classic pumps to elaborate fantasy shoes: a delicate
lace-and-crystal Cinderella pair, complete with
sparkling butterflies; a "Maleficent" shoe
worn by Angelina Jolie while promoting the movie, with
heels that curve like smoke; a ravishing black leather
bootie in his current collection with fanciful wings
attached, as if its wearer might fly away.
he have a favorite pair, after all this time? "I
always say," he said, "itís the one that I
havenít been yet doing."