Sunday, May 1, 2011

Christian Louboutin

Christian Louboutin was born in Paris, France in 1963 and is said to have become obsessed with the silhouette of the stiletto heel since a young age after coming across an image of the forbidden shoe on a sign bearing a large, red “X” over the stiletto during a visit to a museum. The fact that the shoes were prohibited, because of their sharp heel damaging the delicate parquet of the museum, intrigued Louboutin. This was partially due to the fact that at the time, the 1970’s, platforms were en vogue and stilettos were scarce; the image of the illicit shoe stayed in his mind andmade him want to defy that through his designs, “I wanted to create something that broke the rules and made women feel confident and empowered”

Louboutin then studied with Charles Jourdan, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, finally attaining an apprenticeship with famed Roger Vivier, credited for creating the stiletto heel while working for Christian Dior in the 1950’s. Louboutin then went on to debut his new luxury shoe label, opening his first boutique in 1991 in Passage Vero-Dodat in Paris. Regardless of the 20-year feminist imposed respite, success came quick enough when the red soles were applied to all his creations. According to Louboutin, in 1992, before his first show, his prototype had a black sole, which Louboutin thought lacked energy and seemed dead. Upon spotting his assistant painting her nails in a Chanel red nail polish, he began to paint the sole and the shoe suddenly came back to life. Originally, he thought he would alter the color each season, but he was seduced by the idea of a scarlet red flashing as a woman walks, “Red is more than a color. It is a symbol of love, of blood, of passion. It’s like the handkerchief an elegant woman dropped if she saw a man whom she was attracted to.”

Since making red a standard on all of Louboutins’ soles regardless of shoe color, he requested and was awarded a registered trademark for his red soles in 2008 by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office. Despite his patent, other manufacturers have since copied this design element and Louboutin’s pioneering has been debated and some historians even point out that the design element of red heels and sole edges were actually in vogue in the 17th century amongst the upper class.

More recently, Louboutin has commenced legal action against Yves Saint Laurent for selling shoes that breached his trademark of red soles and has indicted Carmen Steffens of Brazil, of the same offense in January 2011. In response to the allegations the Brazilian brand issued a press release saying it has always used a logo in red, called “Rosette”, adding that the tones are not the same, and that their catalogs dating from 1996 can prove that their shoes contain soles of all colors, including red. They also expressed their surprise that anyone would try to reserve the rights to any color, even though other luxury labels have previously received patents on their brand colors such as Tiffany Blue (Pantone 1837) and Hermes Orange (Pantone 1448) as of date, the lawsuit has not been concluded.

Louboutin has topped The Luxury Institutes annual Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI) for three years as the most sought-after shoe brand and the label’s collections have been declared the Most Prestigious Women's Shoes for several consecutive years replacing Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo on occasions. This is quite momentous considering that Christian Louboutin is, in the grand scheme of things, a tiny brand. He has 20 boutiques worldwide, doesn’t advertise or bombard celebrities with gifts and charges on average 800 USD for shoes furthering the label from entry-level brands or democratization for the sake of sales. But the label’s increasing popularity and trademark sole make it abundantly clear why Louboutin shuns obvious logos; the red sole says it all. Consumers purchase these shoes because they want to be seen in them, some say that the fashion brand wears the consumer rather than the inverse but the consumer seeks the sex appeal, confidence and poise as well as the silent recognition. The red soles have become a status symbol that masquerade as a simple design detail.

While the label is silently spreading, it faces larger problems online where it is under constant attack from counterfeit versions selling for a fraction of the cost, often made in China and most likely by children. To discourage it, Louboutin's website now sells some of their products online available only within the US and have made it abundantly clear that this is the only domain with the word Louboutin in it to do so. Louboutin's main website contains a prominent note stating that any other domain name containing the word "Louboutin" is very likely to be selling counterfeit goods and they emphasize that no part of their production is done in Asia.

Within the last few years, the company has served hundreds of DMCA notices (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) on Google to remove the majority of the sites selling counterfeit luxury goods from Google’s search results, but thousands more remain online. The Louboutin company has even set up a separate website solely focused on protecting the brand and drawing attention to the problem. Their website details hundreds of websites selling fake goods as well as summaries of legal actions taken, including raids on factories and photographs and videos of the mass destruction of counterfeit goods discovered. The website also includes detailed statements about the company’s “Zero Tolerance” stance and their belief that no matter how small the counterfeiting operation, they will be found and moved against through Louboutin’s cooperation with Fiscal, Tax, Postal, Shipping, Law Enforcement, Customs and their own company.

Authentic Christian Louboutin shoes are carefully put together and made from fine leather. The shoes are hand made in Italy and at least ten people touch every single shoe in the manufacturing process. The silhouette of the shoe is streamlined, with plunging lines creating delicate curves with a sturdy heel positioned to maximize comfort. The inside is gently molded, lightly padded and bears the Christian Louboutin logo emblazoned in gold. While the real leather sole is painted in their trademark red and has Made In Italy and Vero Cuoio embossed on to each sole under the company name.

In conclusion, Christian Louboutin shoes are meant to be exclusive and exquisite making them both timeless yet modern while still exuding a subtle sex appeal. Their allure has proven to endure and carry the company through hardships not withstanding Louboutin’s disassociation with fashion conglomerates and scarce advertisement, raising the shoe to an almost fetish-like status. Louboutin has, as most would agree, attained his dream of creating a shoe that defied society’s restrictions and catered to a woman’s ego all the while adhering to strict requirements to maintain its luxury status and provide a product that met the highest of consumerist standards while retaining exclusivity and mystique.

How to Spot a Fake Louboutin:


La Carrosse Noir - Christian's Angels
ABC News - "Cheap Designer Shoes Too Good To Be True"