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Christian Louboutin Enters the Beauty Arena With Nail Polish The designer is taking his first steps into the beauty business with a range of signature polishes housed in strikingly tall, spiky bottles. By Miles Socha and Pete Born  on July 23, 2014 Share This Article Reddit LinkedIn WhatsApp Email Print Talk from WWD issue 07/23/2014 Download PDF View Slideshow   View Gallery — 3   Photos

PARIS — Back in 1992, surveying one design from his third signature footwear collection, Christian Louboutin was dismayed that the actual shoe wasn’t as colorful and compelling a atcobbhn. christian louboutin sale shoes sakss his original sketch, especially underneath.

And so he snatched a jar of nail varnish from an assistant, who howled in protest, and his famous red soles were born.

This story first appeared in the July 23, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Now the French footwear guru is taking his first steps into the beauty business with a range of signature polishes housed in strikingly tall, spiky bottles.

Priced at $50 each, the well-heeled, red nail enamel, Rouge Louboutin, is scheduled to go on sale today in a U.S. concession shop on the eighth floor at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship in New York and the 15 Louboutin boutiques in the U.S. Saks will devote five display windows to the launch, with each filled with a display of an imaginary city, called Loubiville, whose architectural shapes give hints of products to come.

The rest of Louboutin’s U.S. distribution — the remainder of Saks doors, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom and select Sephora stores — will unveil the Rouge nail polish on Aug. 6, displaying the new beauty product alongside his footwear collections. The remaining 30 shades will be available throughout the U.S. distribution on Aug. 31, according to Catherine Roggero, general manager of Christian Louboutin Beauté. The new beauty company is a joint venture between Christian Louboutin’s fashion company and New York-based Batallure Beauty. The month-long lag in distribution rollout between the red polish and the 30 remaining shades is designed to give the Rouge enamel its own time in the merchandising spotlight.

“If I do beauty, I have to do it my way,” the designer said in an interview at his Paris studio, seated at a table strewn with the pointy products, like a forest of obelisks, one of the inspirations behind the unusual packaging. “I am someone who likes objects.”

The foray into beauty comes at a time of strong momentum for the Paris-based footwear firm, which now produces close to a million pairs of shoes a year and continues its global retail march.

The firm counted 63 freestanding stores and 29 shops-in-shop, all directly controlled, as of June 30, and it plans to add 15 additional units over the next 12 months, including locations in Paris, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Shanghai, Beijing and Hakata-ku, Japan, according to Alexis Mourot, chief operating officer and general manager of the privately held firm.

He declined to disclose figures, but said the firm continues to post “very high double-digit growth,” with men’s footwear one of the fastest growing categories, only three years after Louboutin introduced his first men’s only shop and a full men’s product range.

The brand is also accentuating its hyper-luxurious positioning, with beauty products priced even higher than elite brands such as Tom Ford and Chanel, and via bespoke retail installations, such as a main-floor concession unit at the Printemps flagship here on the Boulevard Haussmann that will showcase women’s shoes and leather goods with beauty products in the middle. Louboutin described the shop, due to open on Aug. 25, as “a peninsula of beauty.”

“This is the launch of a true luxury beauty company,” said Robin Burns-McNeill, chairman of Batallure Beauty and cofounder of Christian Louboutin Beauté. She noted that the company revolves around Louboutin as a brand and a commitment to push the innovation envelope from product conception to packaging to distribution. Burns-McNeill said the company will unfold more product categories within the next 24 months.

A tight distribution for the Christian Louboutin Nail Colour with “core partners” around the world accentuates the exclusive approach, according to Mourot, a former Marc Jacobs executive tapped in 2007 to spearhead its retail push and pilot the company’s explosive growth.

The Rouge nail enamel line will be launched in northern Europe in early August and in markets on the southern rim of the continent in late August, with the rest of the line following a month later, a pattern to be repeated around the world. The Rouge shade will bow in Ireland’s Brown Thomas on Aug. 7, and make its debut in Milan at Antonia’s on Aug. 25. In the U.K., the Rouge enamel will go on sale Aug. 14 with distribution at Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols. In Germany and Switzerland, the brand will be unveiled on Aug. 1, the same date as the Hong Kong entrance at Lane Crawford. The Middle East will get the polish on Sept. 10, according to Roggero.

Total distribution adds up to about 100 doors worldwide. While none of the executives would discuss sales projections, industry sources estimate that first-year sales could land in the neighborhood of $3 million at retail.

While Louboutin created a film with David Lynch as a teaser for the polish for the brand’s Web site and social media — where it boasts 1.4 million followers on Twitter and 2.7 million fans on Facebook and Instagram — the company has not planned an ad campaign, and recognized that “it’ll take more time” with the beauty foray, given its unconventional approach, Mourot noted.

Louboutin said polish seemed the most obvious beauty category for him to enter, given that the color of nails is a crucial question when he works with photographers such as Peter Lippmann to produce look books of his collections.

At $50 for a bottle of polish and $55 for the necessary care kit, Louboutin’s nail enamel is not for the budget shopper. The brand will be marketed as a genuine luxury experience, with what executives say is the highest percentage of pigment in the industry and an eye-catching bottle and wandlike cap that looks like it would be more at home in an art gallery than on a dressing table. The 16-faceted bottle, produced by Pochet, has its edges smoothed with a hand-held flame. Likewise, the little box container is also made by hand. Roggero said it takes 22 weeks to make each piece.

A stickler for detail, and a fan of vivid colors, Louboutin described how sandals and peep-toe styles sometimes call for nude polish to lengthen toes and the leg line; at other times a juicy contrasting shade shortens the effect for long toes.

“I always end up questioning myself, ‘What should be on the nail?’” he said, contemplating, for example, the look of a light magenta nail with a burgundy sandal.

The designer grouped his polishes into in three color families — Pop, Nude and Noir — with the signature Louboutin red getting its own special packaging: a glass orb in gradient shades of black, and a black cap taller than the rest — and the same height as a fantasy ballerina shoe with an impossibly high stiletto heel, the fruit of a 2007 photography collaboration titled “Fetish” with Lynch.

Louboutin said many beauty companies have approached him over the years, and he actually did a one-off red polish for MAC Cosmetics in the U.S. only, an initiative fronted by Linda Evangelista.

So why did he go all the way now with his own brand? “The idea is definitely not to put my name on a new product,” he stressed. Still, the advent of the so-called Louboutin manicure, a process born in London salons that involves a lick of red on the underside of nails, helped convince him that nail polish was a legitimate territory for his brand.

He credits now retired Le Figaro journalist Janie Samet for suggesting he do varnish in the shades of his soles while the two watched a Jeremy Scott fashion show in Paris. “It made sense to me,” Louboutin said. “A lot of signs were there.”

He certainly had definitive ideas, including that the bottle should have an architectural aspect. He initially approached Oscar Niemeyer about the project, but the Brazilian architect did not have time for it and subsequently passed away at the end of 2012.

Louboutin’s final design consists of basic forms: a faceted glass base incorporating square and round shapes, plus a spirelike cap evoking a finial on a building — or a cone-shaped heel. “I wanted the color to be almost frozen in a pack of glass,” he said. “It’s actually a very classical bottle.”

The designer was also insistent that the formulations had to produce a strong color, but without any buildup on the nails, approximating the richness and finesse of the best Chinese or Japanese lacquers. “It’s depth without thickness,” he explained.

Louboutin said he plans to add new polish colors to accompany new collections of shoes — at least twice a year — and to open a dedicated shop for beauty in Paris at the end of the year in the Galerie Véro-Dodat, a covered passage from the early 1800s where he operates women’s and men’s boutiques, plus an elite cobbler stand.

As an example of attention to detail, the underside of the cap, like the bottom of a shoe, is colored in signature red. The long cap, inspired by a calligraphy brush, is bottom-weighted to make it more manageable. Sources suggest lipstick could be the next step for Christian Louboutin Beauté, red lips being another logical jump from red soles. He alluded to coming chapters in the beauty saga but declined to elaborate.

The nail polish arrives at a time when Louboutin’s core business is roaring ahead. Today, retail generates about two thirds of revenues, versus only 15 percent in 2008, when the company embarked on its retail expansion.

The company has reduced its total wholesale doors to prioritize ones that can showcase its collections, and “we continue to grow with our existing partners,” Mourot noted.

At present, 75 percent of revenues come from women’s shoes, 18 percent from men’s shoes, and 7 percent from handbags and small leather goods, he said, noting of the latter category: “We could easily double or triple it in the next years.”

The company has started to intensify events around its accessories, and add ground-floor concessions in stores such as Harvey Nichols in London.

The U.S. remains Louboutin’s biggest market, but its geographic breakdown of revenues is more balanced than five years ago, with the Americas representing 43 percent; Europe and the Middle East 41 percent, and 16 percent for Asia, including Japan.

“We see opportunities in all of these regions ,” Mourot noted, adding, “We’re seeing very high growth, even in Europe.”

In China, meanwhile, the company is opening stores in what Mourot called “destination malls” rather than commercial ones, to reinforce its positioning.

Meanwhile, the brand continues to protect its red soles “very intensively,” said Mourot, citing special programs with customs officials worldwide and a dedicated Web site combating fakes.

He noted the highly publicized court battle in 2012 against Yves Saint Laurent over the use of Louboutin’s coveted red sole telegraphed that the company was serious about protecting its intellectual property, which has discouraged its use by would-be copycats.

That year, a New York federal appeals court backed the validity of Louboutin’s red-sole trademark but said the French shoemaker would only be able to protect its mark when it comes to red-soled shoes with contrasting uppers.

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christian louboutin wedding shoes
Christian Louboutins for my Wedding!! PurseForum Forums Shoes, Shoes, Shoes Christian Louboutin #1 Jan 12, 2008 Minnie Member Thread Starter Jan 25, 2006 3,852 Posts I love CLs. They are comfy, beautiful and give me that extra height I love!! I am looking for a high heel louboutin with either a hidden or added platform and heel. Any suggestions??   #2 Jan 12, 2008 priiin Member Nov 14, 2007 3,244 Posts Do you have a dress yet?   #3 Jan 12, 2008 Rocky ♥ May 22, 2006 1,458 Posts I'm waitlisted for the No Prive in silver glitter. If they don't come in by February, then I'm putting in a special order for white satin No Prive with Swarovsky Crystals on the heel. They can also do a blue sole for you if you'd like.   #4 Jan 12, 2008 ladydeluxe C'est Magnifique! Sep 18, 2007 3,605 Posts En route to happiness :) ^ oooo! the NP with crystals on the heels sound so hot, just like the yoyo orlato. any intel on that? does it also come in other colors?   #5 Jan 12, 2008 KillerTofu Member Jan 4, 2007 308 Posts I've always thought the white Mouche would be a lovely bridal shoe: (   #6 Jan 12, 2008 ladydeluxe C'est Magnifique! Sep 18, 2007 3,605 Posts En route to happiness :) ^ ITA!!   #7 Jan 12, 2008 DamierAddict Member Nov 28, 2007 2,253 Posts student i actually just had this conversation with my mom and we both think that cl's would not be good with a wedding dress, because youll see the red heel .. and i dunno.. try monolo's those are the ideal wedding shoes   #8 Jan 12, 2008 stinam Member Mar 21, 2006 794 Posts Congrats, Minnie! I am getting married this year as well and was absolutely certain I wanted a pair of CLs for my wedding day. During my hunt for shoes, I found that the CL boutiques had the best choices and you can also special order a shoe through them. I have two pairs that I am deciding between and I'll post pics of them when I get home tonight: The first pair I bought over a year ago at the Horatio boutique that are called Cabaret -- it's a nude satin t-strap maryjane with small swarofsky crystals covering the vertical bar of the t-strap. The other pair are the silver Bling Bling from this past fall/winter collection. One of the shoes I considered special ordering was the Fiorellino (?). Christina Aguilera wore it as her wedding shoe. It's a satin peeptoe approx. 3" slingback with a flower shaped jewel near the peeptoe. If you want a covered platform, the Mouche would be a great choice, or you could also consider special ordering a pair of Very Prives in whatever choice material you want   #9 Jan 12, 2008 ladydeluxe C'est Magnifique! Sep 18, 2007 3,605 Posts En route to happiness :) ^ show us piccies please! we would LOVE to drool over them lol   #10 Jan 12, 2008 toiletduck SHOES BAGS SHOES Mar 14, 2006 3,398 Posts makeup artist My Website When I was at the CL boutique last week the SA there told me about the 'Bridal Collection' and they had a GORGEOUS pair of 3.5 inches satin peep-toes with a bow at the front. They were absolutely TDF and the great thing about white satin is you can re-dye them to a more practical color after the wedding   #11 Jan 12, 2008 lorihmatthews A taste for the arts Oct 7, 2006 30,214 Posts I wore a pair of Badgley Mishka heels for my wedding ... I think if I had to wear heels that high for that long my feet would kill me at the end of the day. As it was, my feet were killing me by 11pm!   #12 Jan 12, 2008 LavenderIce Vintage CLs please Dec 19, 2006 11,068 Posts My choices would be the Fiorello, Mouche, and lace/satin Yoyos.   #13 Jan 12, 2008 Lynn12 Member Aug 17, 2007 2,019 Posts I think that the Mouche would be beautiful. Also, I would love to see the special order CL with the light blue soles. Anyone have any pics?   #14 Jan 12, 2008 boslvuton out of my mind Sep 16, 2007 1,347 Posts Professional Student :) efusik said: ↑ I'm waitlisted for the No Prive in silver glitter. If they don't come in by February, then I'm putting in a special order for white satin No Prive with Swarovsky Crystals on the heel. They can also do a blue sole for you if you'd like. Click to expand... Wait are you waiting for the ones similar to the pink glitter ones on the Neimans website?? If so I saw them TODAY at Saks Phoenix!! Call and ask for Ann Roundy at 602 955 8000, shes such a sweetie!!! Tell her Valerie sent you!   #15 Jan 12, 2008 boslvuton out of my mind Sep 16, 2007 1,347 Posts Professional Student :) KillerTofu said: ↑ I've always thought the white Mouche would be a lovely bridal shoe: ( Click to expand... i completely agree here as well!   (You must log in or sign up to post here.) Show Ignored Content Page 1 of 8 1 ← 2 3 4 5 6 → 8 Next > Log in with Facebook Your name or email address: Do you already have an account? No, create an account now. Yes, my password is: Forgot your password? Stay logged in PurseForum Forums Shoes, Shoes, Shoes Christian Louboutin

Christian Louboutin: The joy of toe-cleavage The designer whose shoes have been described as 'sex on legs' talks to Cat Callender about his passion for Parisian showgirls, how to look good naked, and the joy of toe-cleavage Sunday 27 August 2006 23:00 BST Click to follow The Independent Online

"French weemen 'ate toe cleavage but I sink of eet as ze second décolleté," states shoe designer Christian Louboutin in his heavily accented, almost pantomime French. "Ze point is, eet's more provocative to show a low toe cleavage zan eet is wearing sandals that reveal all. In flip-flops you see everything but zat ees not at all sexy."

Clearly for Louboutin, the devil's in the details. Having dedicated practically his life's work to creating sensually explicit shoes that fetishise the foot in a subtle game of hide and seek, the 43-year-old knows a thing or two about provocative footwear. "Ze curved inside part of ze foot, ze instep, is ze most sexy part so I like to close ze heel and reveal ze arch," he adds, imparting yet another sartorial footwear maxim.

Until recently, Louboutin was one of fashion's best-kept secrets: worn by those who sit front row at the shows, the well-heeled and celebrities with style integrity. However, the current demand for increasingly niche, de luxe labels means Louboutin has attracted a growing clientele for whom the fact that he is not a household name is all part of the appeal. This, coupled with the fact that court shoes (a Louboutin signature - whether platform, wedge or stack-heeled), have never been more de rigueur, means the shoe couturier is experiencing something of a moment.

"Christian's absolutely having a moment right now," confirms Kurt Geiger's buying and creative director Rebecca Farrar-Hockley. "The minute we receive a delivery of his shoes, they sell out. Keeping up with the demand is becoming quite difficult." That Louboutin's bijou Chelsea store recently sold in a day what it used to sell in a month three years ago would only seem to support such claims. Indeed, it would seem Louboutin's high-heeled, sculptural designs have spellbound a whole new set of adoring and loyal devotees. "Christian is a magician, obsessed with beauty, legs and feet," purrs one of his biggest fans, the fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. "He understands women and makes them feel like Cinderellas."

"A good shoe is one that doesn't dress you but undresses you," explains the man himself, citing Helmut Newton's stiletto-clad Amazonian nudes as an example of what he is getting at. "So if a woman is naked, and still wearing shoes, she should still look nude." Naked or dressed to the nines, the Parisian's creations are a statement in their own right. While his shoes are sexy, they never cross over into "va va voom" territory. Instead his lacy, peep-toe heels, chiffon pleat platforms and crystal-heeled courts evoke the key-lit sexuality of screen starlets from a bygone era.

Such an aesthetic is, Louboutin believes, linked to two incidents when he was a child: one a visit to a local museum; the other to a fairground. "I have two memories. One that corresponds to the first drawing of a shoe that I ever saw and one that corresponds to the first shoe I was interested in. Near where my parents lived there was a museum that was an extremely beautiful building. Because of the mosaics on the floor there was a little sign when you entered. It was a high heel in profile with a red cross running through it because it was forbidden to wear heels in the mosaic floors," recounts Louboutin. "But my first memory of a real shoe was at a funfair near where I lived. I saw a woman who was literally wearing exactly the same shoe as the one on the sign in the museum. So I followed her. She was all in black and had the same type of hair as Kim Novak in Vertigo - but a very fat version. Then she went behind a Ferris wheel and suddenly I was grabbed from behind and punched and asked what I was doing. I realised I had been following a prostitute who was about to go with a client and I had been grabbed by her pimp."

That both memories revolve around shoes that were either considered forbidden or illicit is, according to Louboutin, a huge factor in having shaped his oeuvre. So too is the fact that what imprinted itself on his psyche was footwear that harked back to the refined chic of the Fifties - a period that continues to influence his work.

Born in 1963, Louboutin was a child of the Seventies. Seeking refuge from the decade he found himself growing up in, he immersed himself in the sexualised glamour of the world of French music hall revues. By 14, he was already a familiar face at the Moulin Rouge and Folies Bergère. His passion for dancing and showgirls disrupted his schoolwork to such a degree that he stopped attending altogether. By now, he'd set his heart on designing shoes for showgirls, and so at 16, pitched up at the Folies Bergère. "I arrived in the middle of a rehearsal and it was great. I had drawings of shoes for every girl, I knew all their names," he chirrups. "The girls saw my drawings and were like 'wow, what is that, this little boy, how sweet you are' and I became a little mascot."

The Folies Bergère was where Louboutin's shoe apprenticeship began. Although he never actually ended up realising his dream, he was able to channel what he'd observed about the showgirls and their shoe requirements into the shoes he later designed. From the Folies, he went to work for Charles Jourdan in 1981. Freelance stints at Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent followed, before Louboutin launched his own label and opened his first boutique in 1991.

"For a showgirl, shoes are very important. They provide them with their stability. They need to be beautiful and sexy but not steal the limelight," explains Louboutin of the valuable lessons he'd learnt back in the 1970s that he still applies to his shoes today. "First you should see the girl, her body, her shape. Shoes need to be able to both appear and disappear. They can't be clunky either. Even if they have a platform sole, it has to be hidden. I learnt all of this from the showgirls because their shoes are their weapons of seduction."

Granted, Louboutin is not known for designing sensible flats. However, according to the designer, his high-heeled signature not only evokes the high-octane aesthetic of the showgirls, but also his experience of growing up in a household of women. "I was born and raised in a really feminine environment. I have four sisters. My younger sister is 12 years older than me," he explains. "So when I was six, she was 18 and the rest were in their twenties. It was really funny to be a small boy in a tall, female environment." In spite of the fact that Louboutin's heels teeter on the seemingly impractical, comfort, he insists, is high on his list of shoe musts. "I don't believe that one has to suffer to be beautiful," says the Frenchman, who enlists the women in his company to test-drive every pair he designs. "If you suffer in your shoes, it shows in your face. I don't see why any woman should be in pain."

He designs his collections in environments that proffer zero distractions from his second great passion: gardening. "I design the winter collection in winter, in my country house in France where it is cold and the garden is miserable so I don't go out into it," says Louboutin, who briefly turned his hand to landscape gardening in the late 1980s. "And the summer is done in Egypt. The great thing about Egypt is I have a boat. You're stuck on it and can't be distracted. And you're constantly moving so even if you sat on a chair and drew all day, you can go, 'ah I feel like I've done a lot of exercise today!'"

Undoubtedly the collaborations Louboutin's racked up over the years to design the catwalk shoes for the likes of Chloé, Lanvin, McQueen, Viktor & Rolf, Jean Paul Gaultier, YSL and Roland Mouret, have been profile-raising. But it's his whimsical decision to lacquer the soles of his shoes an eye-popping red that has proved to be one of the canniest marketing strategies. "Actually, it's gone beyond being my trademark," chuckles Louboutin. "Once a woman came into the store and said you have to do my wedding shoes because I am getting married because of you. It turns out she had been stopped in the street by a man who had started the conversation by saying he loved the red soles of her shoes. They ended up dating and getting engaged. She said it was because of the shoes. So you see, I can't stop doing red soles." Nor, it would seem, shoes that women continue to fall head over heels in love with.

Christian Louboutin, 23 Motcomb Street, London SW1X 8LB (020-7245 6510)

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