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Romancing the Heel
Text by Sona Bahadur and Photograph by Eyepiece Photography
Published: Volume 15, Issue 5, May, 2007
Christian Louboutin knows how to sweep a woman off her feet. The luxury shoemaker's distinctive creations with their signature red soles have achieved something of a cult status worldwide. The quirky Frenchman, who is surveying the Indian footwear market, convinced Sona Bahadur that nothing elevates the feminine spirit quite like a sexy pair of high heels

What kind of shoes would a murderess wear? Only Christian Louboutin could have contemplated this bizarre question and crafted a masterpiece from the thought. The kernel of the idea formed when the shoemaker was interrogated by the Versailles police in a case involving a woman accused of murdering a man. Louboutin was questioned because his phone number was found in the dead lady's handbag. When he explained it was his shop's number and not a personal one, the cops cooled off. But the incident lingered in the designer's mind and resulted in the creation of the Murderess Shoe. "I thought of the whole sequence of events with the woman grabbing her bag and running after killing a man and ended up with a shoe that a murderess could get away with. It's a very high heel with a tip so thin she could open a safe with it. Or she could throw it in someone's face to defend herself, like a weapon."

Be it killer heels or the famous Love Shoes made keeping Lady Diana in mind, eureka moments abound in Louboutin's inspired world. Indeed, each of his creations has a name with a story behind it. He could be thinking of the 1920s and end up with a beautiful pair of shoes dictated by the lines of a palace built during the decade. It's another matter that he alone can tell the connection. But once in a while, when a client instinctively knows the raison d'etre of his creation, Louboutin is ecstatic. It happened with the Tango, a Mary Jane with a velvet rose at the end of the buckle. One day a woman arrived at Louboutin's store in Paris, put on the shoes and broke into a joyful tango. "Without saying it, without naming it, she knew what my shoe was about."

The zany Frenchman has even created a pair of shoes inspired by India. The trigger was a conversation about Hindu philosophy and temples. "I started to design a shoe which ended up being like a scene from an Indian tale with Lord Arjuna sitting on a bird, holding on to its claws." The front of the shoe - made from a plain Rajasthani gold bracelet - embodies a bird's claws which in turn symbolise the Hindu trinity of creation, destruction and regeneration. The rest of the shoe is a brilliant turquoise, a tribute to India's beautiful colours and to Indian women "who wear colour in an incredible way".

Shoes are akin to a religion for Louboutin. The fascination began at 12 when he started drawing and collecting shoes. Before long the nervous doodling became an obsession. The trés feminine styles that draw gasps from his clients derive from his intimate knowledge of women. Raised by a 'harem' - his mother and four older sisters - Louboutin was a privileged insider to the female universe from a very young age. He saw them looking at themselves in the mirror, having weight problems and boyfriend issues. "I worship women and like to embellish them." When something becomes too incredibly trendy and is not feminine, he is not interested. "If you look at a woman and go 'Whoa, what a shoe,' but you don't look at her, you miss the point. To me the most beautiful shoe is the one you look at and might not even notice but one that makes you go-'whoa, what a sexy woman.'" The shoe, he stresses, should be at the service of a woman and not the other way around.