Art Inspiration Words By: April Whitlow
Why Art for Louboutin?
The high heeled shoe is the ultimate in sexy accessories. It has been wrapped in controversy and a fetish identity just as much as couture and high fashion. There are many inspirations in Louboutin’s many collections and individual shoes, but art in particular is one that has maintained a presence in his work. It interacts with the overriding themes of sex, beauty and lifestyle. Art is a part of a lifestyle that many of Louboutin’s clients subscribe or aspire to. The fantasy with the ultimately sexy life goes beyond simply what you wear but also extends into lifestyle choices like travel and especially in art.
Fine arts are also an intrinsic part of the history of the shoes. As the story goes—he was working on a Warhol inspired collection when he hit upon the idea to paint the soles red with a sales-associate’s red nail varnish. From there the iconic soles have gone down in retail history as the most coveted (Cox, Vintage Shoes, p 206).
Art is Sexy
Art can be sexy or hold connotations of sex and allure. The intrinsic sexiness of art is as Dr. Carlen Costa, Sexologist and Erotic Art Appraiser has stated:
Experienceing art “turns your senses on” and “has all kinds of positive effects. Oxtytocin, hormone linked to sexual arousal and Dopamine, hormone linked to reward/punishment and learning along with a little touch of Endorphins gives you a complete all over feeling of well-being, happiness and helps relieve the effects of stress throughout your life.”
Thus the crossover between art and shoes makes the most basic sense. It combines one of the most sexually charged accessories, the high-heeled shoe, with the highly sensory experience of arts viewing.
Art genres favoured by Louboutin:
Louboutin works with artists in all manner of captivating genres. Some of the most well known are: Flemish Painting, Surrealism, Neo-Plasticism, and Contemporary Graffiti. He works with both photographers and working artists to create either captivating ad campaigns or delightfully unique footwear. Whether it is the rawness of indigenous craft tapped for shoes utilizing Mexican weaving or milagro embellishments or more classical inspiration from the Dali, Mondrian or contemporary street artists such as Galo Canote, Louboutin has his finger, or perhaps it should be said, toes, on the pulse of art and fashion.
His work with Flemish painters exists in his collaboration with the famed still life photographer Peter Lippman for the Autumn/Winter Ad campaign for Louboutin. The series of images include works such as La Negrisse by Marie-Guilleme Benoit re-imagined as by Peter Lipmann. This and many other classic works replace iconic items such as crosses or skulls with Louboutin’s red-soled delights.
A theme also explored by Schiaparelli on many occasions, Surrealism is a movement that Louboutin comes back to repeatedly. He explores unique shapes and textures in shoes like ‘alex’ and ‘puck’ for fall 2011 through their exaggerated and out of place animal elements (see exhibition at the Design Museum). Another pair that fits into this inspirational category are the clever applications of tiny googly-eyes in the ‘Déjà vu’ Slingbacks(see exhibition at the Design Museum). He also visited Surrealist imagery in his Autumn/Winter 2010/2011 collaboration with photographer Khuong Nguyen. Nguyen created digitally manipulated landscapes around individual shoes that existed in these spaces much like Dali’s melted watches.
Louboutin explored Neo-Plasticism in both highly literal and more muted versions. He echoed Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic 1965 salute to Piet Mondrian dress with the Mondrianas in 2007. These solid wedges directly mirrored the works of art Mondrian created in the 30’s with similar black lines and blocks of red, white, yellow and blue. He introduced the Summerisima in Spring/Summer 2012. This pair also played with lines and colour-blocking with bold black strips and blocks of red, brown and white.
Contemporary Street Art
Lastly there is the pairing of Louboutin’s sleek shoes with gritty contemporary street art. The heyday of graffiti died out in the 80’s but has been revived as an international art form that has a dark, ellusive and alluring mythology, but has also been accepted by the commercial art world. Now you can purchase works by famous graffiti artists like ROA in Brick Lane galleries. Louboutin has paired with Los Angeles street artist Galo Canote for the Neiman Marcus celebration of his 20th anniversary this year. The raw dynamism of the spray-painted masterpieces seem to match the urban fierceness touted by Louboutin. Other shoes incorporating graffiti include the Madison Tag of 2007. In Madison Tag he pays homage to the Paris Graffiti scene by employing a young man he calls Nicolas who lived on the outskirts of Paris himself(Christian Louboutin Biography. P 200-201).
If any question how a ‘serious’ art like Neo-Plasticism or Flemish Painting can be equated to the whimsical fantasy of Louboutin’s work in shoes then one must only listen to Piet Mondrian:
“In order to approach the spiritual in art one employs reality as little as possible because reality is the polar opposite of the spiritual.”
Louboutin hand-picks iconic movements in art that are easily identified with the lifestyle he projects overall. In a company that is as relatively young as his, he has already become an icon in his own right. His shoes, like the art and artists he works with, are visually rich and symbolic and will continue to be so as long as his personal fairy tale continues.
Cox, Caroline. Vintage Shoes. Foreword by Christian Louboutin. Carlton Books Limited, London. 2008.
Louboutin, Christian. Christian Louboutin. Biography. Rizzoli, New York. 2011.