Christian Louboutin exhibition at Design Museum London celebrates 20 years of red soles


'I DO care about comfort!' Christian Louboutin defends controversial 'heels should be painful' remark as he unveils exhibition celebrating 20 years of red soles
Retrospective spans two decades and reveals how Louboutin helped shape shoe designDancing Dita Von Teese hologram forms stunning centrepiece of show

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UPDATED:

11:19 GMT, 1 May 2012

Just last week he sparked controversy by claiming that those who couldn't take the pain of his heels should not wear them.

But today, as he unveiled an exhibition featuring hundreds of pairs of his sought-after heels at London's Design Museum, Christian Louboutin thought it wise to backpedal slightly.

Louboutin, who began his career more
than 20 years ago, hit the headlines when he called high heels
'pleasure with pain', adding, 'If you can't walk in them, don't wear
them.'

But at this morning's preview, he defended the remark, saying: 'I am concerned with
comfort. I know that it's important but I don't want to have this evoked
in my design.

'I am concerned with comfort, but I don't want this evoked in my design': Louboutin defends his 'heels are pain' comment at today's unveiling

'I am concerned with comfort, but I don't want this evoked in my design': Louboutin defended his 'heels are pain' comment at the unveiling of his 20 year retrospective at London's Design Museum today

Hundreds of pairs of the designer's red-soled shoes went on show today, celebrating 20 years of the Christian Louboutin brand

Hundreds of pairs of the designer's red-soled shoes went on show at the space, celebrating 20 years of the Christian Louboutin brand

'My work is not about comfort but in the engineering of the shoes there's something that makes them as comfortable as possible.'

The exhibition, which will run for 10 weeks, has burlesque star Dita Von Teese star as a stunning centrepiece.

Louboutin, famous for the red soles on his stilettos, has made Von Teese, one of his most fiercely loyal customers, appear in the form of a three-dimensional holographic performance to illustrate Louboutin's earliest design inspiration – the showgirl.

Star of the show Dita Von Teese attended a private viewing of the exhibition last night, where she was said to be 'thrilled' with the dancing hologram

Star of the show Dita Von Teese attended a private viewing of the exhibition last night, where she was said to be 'thrilled' with the dancing hologram

Dita Von Teese is the stunning holgraphic centrepiece of a newly opened Christian Louboutin exhibition celebrating 20 years of the famous red-soled footwear brand at the Design Museum, London

Dita Von Teese is the stunning holographic centrepiece of the exhibition celebrating the famous red-soled footwear brand. An image of the burlesque dancer morphs from a stiletto to perform a dance on stage

In homage to his early inspiration from showgirls, Louboutin has Dita Von Teese as a key feature in the exhibit

In homage to his early inspiration from showgirls, Louboutin has Dita Von Teese as a key feature in the exhibit

The burlesque performer's silhouette morphs from a Louboutin shoe to dance on stage before she transforms back into a stiletto.

But despite his fondess for Von Teese, Louboutin, who opened his first boutique in Paris 20 years ago with Princess Caroline of Monaco as his first customer, has always maintained his passion lies not in impressing celebrity, but in creating shoes that are, he says, 'like jewels'.

He guards his red soles jealously – Pantone 18 Chinese red – and is currently embroiled in an ongoing legal battle with YSL over their use of a red sole.

Elsewhere though, he says it matters not if others use colour on their soles. Speaking
today, Louboutin also gave his blessing to Topshop boss Sir Philip
Green's daughter Chloe, who has designed green-heeled shoes for her
father's store.

'It has her name on the shoe. There's nothing wrong with that. I wish her luck,' he said.

He said it was 'a bit emotional' to see his first UK exhibition because his work has been so inextricably linked to his personal life.

'Having an exhibition about [my work] is a
big premiere for me and it's quite a journey.

'But this journey has
lasted for 20 years so to me it makes me to see what was missing,
what I have forgotten, what was bringing me memories, what was bringing
me less good memories, actually not so much. But basically it made me go
through a big part of my life.'

'It is
interesting to see after 20 years what you have been keeping, what you
miss and what you are missing.'

'It is about my life, and in a way it is a bit emotional to see work which is
also related to a personal life.

I never really separated my private
life to my professional life. It is all integrated. All the love that I have for one it goes in the other.'

Heels should be painful These look like they'd fit the bill! Louboutin ballet pumps on show at the retrospective

Sky high heels

Heels should be painful These look like they'd fit the bill: Louboutin ballet pumps and an ultra-high patent heel on show at the retrospective

Bringing new meaning to spike heels: Silver Louboutins with crystals and spikes are on show at the exhibition

Bringing new meaning to spike heels: Silver Louboutins with crystals and spike embellishment

The devil is in the detail

The devil is in the detail

The devil is in the detail, and the techniques involved in creating Louboutin's flourishes elevate the designer to star status

Louboutin's intricately designed shoes have been worn by an impressive roll call of celebrities

Louboutin's intricately designed shoes have been worn by an impressive roll call of celebrities – but the designer says what really matters to him is to make shoes that are 'like jewels'

The exhibition will be the first comprehensive presentation of Louboutin's work, and will showcase how he has helped transform the design of the shoe over the past 20 years

The exhibition will be the first comprehensive presentation of Louboutin's work, and will showcase how he has helped transform the design of the shoe over the past 20 years

The exhibition will be the first comprehensive presentation of Louboutin's work, and will showcase how he has helped transform the design of the shoe over the past 20 years

Erotic Louboutin has said in the past that the arch of a woman's foot in a high heel emulates its shape when she orgasms

Erotic Louboutin has said in the past that the arch of a woman's foot in a high heel emulates its shape when she orgasms

Erotic Louboutin has said in the past that the arch of a woman's foot in a high heel emulates its shape when she orgasms

Shoes say a lot about a woman, Louboutin says. 'There is an element of seduction in shoes that doesnt exist for men a woman can be sexy, charming, witty or shy with her shoes'

Shoes say a lot about a woman, Louboutin says. 'There is an element of seduction in shoes that doesn’t exist for men… a woman can be sexy, charming, witty or shy with her shoes'

Dozens of cobblers' moulds on show at the Design Museum

Dozens of cobblers' moulds are on show at the Design Museum – all in Louboutin red to match his soles, which is a Pantone colour trademarked by Louboutin

FROM UNRULY SCHOOLBOY TO COUTURE COBBLER: LOUBOUTIN'S STELLAR RISE TO FAME
Christian Louboutin always wanted to design shoes that 'looked like jewels'

Christian Louboutin always wanted to design shoes that 'looked like jewels'

Louboutin was born in 1963 in Paris, son of a cabinenetmaker father and a mother who stayed at home to look after the boy and his three sisters.

Unruly as a child, he was expelled from school three times and ran away from home aged 12. He never returned, either to home or to school, but began sketching shoes in his early teens.

A regular on the Paris party scene, he made the acquaintance of the likes of Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol, becoming part of the in-crowd.

His first job was at the Folies Bergeres cabaret, helping the showgirls backstage – and it was this scene that has provided him with so much inspiration over the years.

There was some formal training – a short stint studying art at the Academie d'Art Roederer. But for Louboutin, it was a visit to the Museum of African Art in Paris that he felt moved to make high heels for women.

At the exhibition he saw a sign in a photograph forbidding women in heels to enter a building for fear of damaging the floor. 'I wanted to defy that,' the designer said. 'I wanted to create something that broke rules and made women feel confident and empowered.'

Solo trips to Egypt and India as a teen provided him with yet more colour and imagery to feed from, and when he returned to Paris in 1981, Louboutin presented his ideas for high heels to top couture houses, landing him a position with Charles Jourdan.

He later went to work as an apprentice in the atelier of Roger Vivier, shoemaker to the Queen and widely regarded as one of the world's top shoe designers. Later, as a freelance designer, he created shoes for Chanel, YSL and Maude Frizon, before setting up his own company in 1991 in Paris with Princess Caroline of Monaco his first customer.

Since then, he has dressed the feet of such stars as Sarah Jessica Parker, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Dita Von Teese.

He has said his goal is to 'make a woman's legs look as long as they can;' and says of his shoes that they should make a woman look 'naked'. 'If a woman is naked and wearing my shoes, she should still look naked.'

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