Spontaneity and serendipity played a part in the search for shoe designer Christian Louboutin’s rooftop home found by a friend over ten years ago, after an attempt to buy another property fell through. Tucked behind the Opéra, on the fourth floor and accessed by a lift and spiral staircase, it took three years to reconstruct the warren of rooms into an open-plan suite under a vaulted ceiling. This cabinet of curiosities reveals Native American art, Egyptian chairs inscribed with hieroglyphics, feathered headdresses from the Amazon, an Iranian fireplace and a Damascene door, all part of the mise en scène. His latest purchase is a Gandhara bust, describing it as if “a Greek man and an Afghani woman had married and had kids in whose faces their mixed origins are. What interests me is the feminisation of classical Greek masculinity.” Louboutin is clearly an art connoisseur and dedicated shopper: “I have no problem buying things. I always think, there will be a moment for this piece. I buy a lot of objects.” Fortunately, he also has a lot of homes in which to place them.
Two pink Jean Royère Polar Bear chairs anchor the living room.
Louboutin created a twisted dining table from the frame of a vintage metal dentist’s chair.
Of his inspirations, he has admitted, “Infused with a passion for travel – real or imaginary – my universe consists of a juxtapostion of references borrowed from the arts and cultures of the world, in theatre, literature or cinema.” Nowhere is this more evident than in his home. Apparently the moodboard for his penthouse was Marlene Dietrich’s apartment in the 1944 film Kismet, while the windows were inspired by the 1959 film Ben Hur. Of the latter Louboutin says, “The morning light through the louvred shutters is very delicate and cheers me up in the mornings.” Central to the interior design scheme is the living room’s marble floor in terracotta, black and white, once part of a fountain in Damascus, sourced at a fair in Belgium. Louboutin also installed a sky-lit marble spa with a hammam, (inspired by the grey bathrooms found at Claridge’s, where he regularly stays while in London) and accessorised with églomisé panels from India. An addition to the master bedroom is a walk-in closet that resembles a luxury train carriage – one of his favourite modes of transport.
It’s clear Louboutin has a flair for the dramatic, one that he channels into his other homes and gardens (he worked briefly as a landscape designer) as much as into his designs. His SS20 collection pays homage to sport and childhood games and the brightly-coloured range includes several Rubik’s Cube-inspired designs in addition to a sandal named Tennis Elbow.
He has designed over 15,000 shoes and boots since he founded his Maison in 1991 (the flagship store is on rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau), and thus far has resisted the temptation and pressure to merge with luxury conglomerates. With revenues of half a billion dollars per annum, it’s possibly this financial and creative freedom which accounts for his irrepressible joie de vivre.
Many fashion lovers collect Louboutins as others collect jewels. Beyoncé, Leonardo di Caprio, Blake Lively, Zendaya, Rihanna and Victoria Beckham are high-profile fans. A new immersive exhibition covering nearly 30 years of his design output, reveals the diversity and beauty of their inspiration. “L’Exhibition[niste]”, which opens this month at the Palais de la Porte Dorée will also celebrate some of the artists and artisans who have inspired him. The retrospective will include such disparate inspirations as the “Lady Grès” paying tribute to Madame Grès’ turbans and pleats, or the “Puebla” shoe, an homage to Kachina dolls.
In the Treasure Room, one of ten exhibition spaces, shoes are arranged in the shape of a pyramid displaying crystal-encrusted creations and embroidered masterpieces highlighting his close links with craftsmen in Bhutan, Senegal, India and Mexico. Also featured are artistic collaborations with Dita Von Teese, filmmaker and photographer David Lynch and singer Mika, who inspired him to create his first men’s collection in 2009.
Louboutin was sketching shoes from the age of twelve. As a teenager he interned at the Folies-Bergères, the cabaret music hall which launched the career of many stars including Maurice Chevalier and Josephine Baker, then with Charles Jourdan, who at the time made shoes for Maison Christian Dior. Thereafter he was the personal assistant to Roger Vivier, a sculptor by trade, who taught him the importance of line and craftsmanship. Nights spent at the Paris nightclub, Le Palace, frequented by Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol and Yves Saint Laurent, were also formative. “Le Palace was more than just a nightclub. Fashion, music and underground culture came together in a rule-breaking movement. Everything was excessive.” In Louboutin’s bedroom are more than 350 pairs of Louboutins (as well as a few pairs by Nike and Dries Van Noten), looked after by his butler, Safqat. His shoerobe is the only sign he brings his work home. Freedom, indeed.
Louboutin has said, “When I’m sitting at this table I feel like Kissinger in the UN, taking care of what’s going to happen in the next 50 years around the world.” The table is Swedish, c1910.
Louboutin has a weakness for Native American art, which appears in his bedroom.
A seashell bust by Janine Janet, who also designed costumes for Balenciaga, looks out onto the main hall.
There is not nearly enough storage for Louboutin’s personal collection of shoes, lined up double file along the walls of his bedroom and bathroom.
PHotographs by Simon Watson
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