Shoe maestro with a love of small spaces

French designer Christian Louboutin's footwear comes with his signature red-lacquered soles.
French designer Christian Louboutin's footwear comes with his signature red-lacquered soles.PHOTO: MATHIEU CESAR

PARIS • In a series about designers' private working worlds, shoe maestro Christian Louboutin, 53, reveals why he cannot throw anything away, hates going out at night and loves small spaces.

Where are we?

In Paris, on the Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which is just by the Louvre on the Right Bank.

I've been on this street since 1991. I started with one shop and then I added another little part and another and another.

We have No. 12 of the street; No. 14; No. 17, the men's store; 19, the women's store. And then, behind 19, there's a patio with a lot of other people on two floors. Then, there is 23, where there is beauty; and 25, where there is press. There is production in 31. This is 27, the studio.

I think the street could have another name at this point. That's a joke.

Rousseau was a fantastic writer and I'm proud of being on his street.

What does the street represent to you?

I feel like I am in a Lubitsch movie: a love story about a girl and two guys who fall in love with the same woman. It's almost like a dream.

I absolutely love Paris. You just stroll around and you see so many beautiful things.

What was this building before?

It used to be a butchery.

Animals would come, already dead, cut into big pieces of beef. And it was still smelling of blood when I saw it.

For three years, the smell of blood was so strong that nobody approached it.

Then I got it. And I took this part: the little space on top. I feel it's important to have your own small retreat where you can concentrate.

It's like a kid, when you want to be able to be in your bedroom and to cry and then come back to your family.

All the offices are built like that. We have all our own space.

Did you do a lot of renovation?

I don't like to redo construction. I hate to destroy things. I don't like the idea of it being completely new. I do the minimum.

But it's an environment that is always changing. No couch, otherwise I would be with my cigarette. I don't smoke anymore, but I would still be with my cigarette lying down and looking at the ceiling.

In general, the things that are here mean something to me. They have either been accompanying me for a long time or are in transit to my apartment in Paris. Or Portugal, where I have a house; or Italy, where I have an apartment above the factory.

I collect objects. So often, objects are coming here and then, they have a second life or a third life.

Tell me about some of the things here.

This place is a bit like a record of my life. I always loved miniatures. Parisian miniatures, Indian miniatures, because you have to really look at them. And they are full of information. Full of beauty.

If you see a massive thing, you can be distracted by the size, but not get into it. Small things often oblige you. You really look.

Snoopy over there is from my bed when I was a child. Since my childhood, I've been keeping many things. I have T-shirts from when I was 10. I can't even fit in them, but I can't give them away. It's a bit of a disease that I have, but I share the disease with a lot of people.

How do all these objects relate to your work?

Objects have always been a source of inspiration to me. I guess it comes from my father, who was a carpenter, so I always had a way of looking at an object as a technician, but also as an aesthetician.

I like my environment to feed my eyes. When you have things in front of you, you end up seeing the lines or curves and it gets engraved in your brain. And then I transcribe it my way.

What do you do in this room?

I isolate myself. This room is for me. Very few people get into this room. Meetings are downstairs.

What is the hardest thing about your job?

I have no time to disconnect. I hate when you have to narrow down the creative process. I hate to have limits. I understand that one has to have limits, but I hate when the business side of my company takes over the creative part of it. That's always a bit nasty, but it doesn't happen often.

The other thing I like the least: You have a lot of evenings where you have to do things and I'm a day person. I'm super enthusiastic during the day, but when I have to go out, professionally speaking, at 6pm, I can deal with it, but at 7.30pm, I want to go home.

Would you leave this office or this street?

I don't think I could ever move from here.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2016, with the headline 'Shoe maestro with a love of small spaces'. Print Edition | Subscribe