Born and raised in Paris, Christian Louboutin was raised in a quintessential French family. Christian’s mother was a homemaker, and his father was a cabinetmaker. The couple had three other children—Christian’s older sisters. Of his family, Louboutin would later talk about feeling like an outsider due to the fact that his skin was darker than his family members’. He made this remark in a 2012 interview: “I felt I wasn’t French. My family was very French and so I decided they had probably adopted me. But instead of feeling it was terrible and that I was an outsider who had to go and find my real family, I invented my own history, full of characters from Egypt because I was very into the pharaohs."
It was likely this same restless imagination that allowed Louboutin to fantasize about his origins that also caused him to be disruptive in school, earning him three school expulsions. After the third expulsion, and attempts by Louboutin to run away from home, his mother allowed him to leave the family home and move in with a friend. Shortly thereafter, Louboutin decided to leave school at the tender age of 12, despite vehement opposition from his family.
As a young teen, Louboutin would pass his time sketching shoe designs. He went through a punk phase and was in a handful of punk films with an English language fan base. Around this time, Louboutin got his first job as an apprentice at the Folies Bergères, the famous music hall in Paris, where he helped the showgirls backstage. During his nights, Louboutin would roam the city’s club scene and find himself partying in the same circles as Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol.
After enrolling at Académie d'Art Roederer, where Louboutin studied sketching and decorative arts, his passion for fashion design hit a zenith one day in 1976 while visiting the Musée national des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie. It was at this French museum where Louboutin saw a sign prohibiting women wearing stiletto shoes from entering the museum and damaging its wooden floors by walking on them. He was fascinated by the sign, and the thought of shoes like that (which he had not yet seen) would later serve as inspiration in his shoe designs. Thinking back on that museum sign, Louboutin says, “I wanted to defy that. I wanted to create something that broke rules and made women feel confident and empowered."
At this stage in life, Louboutin began his love of travelling with trips to far flung places that included Egypt and India. While in these exotic lands, young Louboutin was inspired to design a collection of elaborate high heels. Upon his return to Paris, Louboutin brought his collection with him to local fashion houses, eventually landing a job working with designer Charles Jourdan, who taught Louboutin about the shoe business. Shortly thereafter, he met Roger Vivier, the designer who created the stiletto heel. Louboutin became Vivier’s apprentice.
In the mid 1980s, Louboutin worked as a freelance designer, creating shoe collections for such fashion powerhouses as Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Maud Frizon. For a brief time in the late 1980s, Louboutin took a break from fashion and worked for Vogue Paris designing landscape architecture and gardens and writing articles for the magazine. But his love for designing shoes brought Louboutin back to fashion, leading him to set up his own fashion house in 1991. Later that same year, Louboutin opened a shoe boutique with the help of two financial backers. Princess Caroline of Monaco was the boutique’s first customer. The boutique made quite an impression on the Princess, because she raved about it in the presence of a fashion journalist, who published her comments. This positive press catapulted the reputation of both Louboutin and his new boutique, resulting in visits from other high-society clients like Diane von Fürstenberg and Catherine Deneuve.
Celebrity interest in Louboutin’s stilettos have continued to the present day, with devoted customers and fans that include Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj, Christina Aguilera, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard and Blake Lively. For her wedding, Sarah Jessica Parker donned a pair of Louboutin heels. In Britney Spears’ “If U Seek Amy” music video, you can see the pop star strutting in a pair of Louboutin heels that wouldn’t be available to the public until a month after her video was released.
Louboutin’s signature stiletto heels have a heel height of 4.72 inches and higher, a design choice that Louboutin made in order to give women a sexy, long-legged look. Though some of Louboutin’s shoe designs include lower heels, he is more famous for his evening footwear. These higher heeled shoes include embellishments like jeweled straps, feathers, and bows. He also uses patent leather for his designs, and is most known for his popular red-bottom high heels, which are often called “sammy red-bottoms.”