Born in Paris, France, in 1963, famed shoe designer Christian Louboutin had little interest in school growing up. He was the youngest child born to a cabinetmaker and a stay-at-home mother. His father wasn't around much so Louboutin spent a lot of his early years in the company of his mother and three sisters.
At the tender age of 12, Louboutin had already been expelled from school three times and moved out of his parents’ house.
Louboutin began sketching shoes in his early teens, ignoring his academic studies. He happened on his life's passion by accident.
Louboutin visited the Museum of African and Oceanic art. He saw a sign which showed a woman's sharp-heeled shoe, crossed out with a vivid red line. The image, which dated back to the 1950's and was intended to safeguard the museum's parquet floor, fascinated him. It was then that he decided to create shoes that would "make women feel empowered and confident"
Before long Louboutin was filling notebooks with his own shoe sketches. He was further inspired by a book of Roger Vivier's designs given to him by a friend. Vivier designed shoes for Christian Dior in the 1950s.
Growing up in the French capital, he became intoxicated by the glamour of the Moulin Rouge. His earliest designs, obsessed with high heels were intended for the feet of the showgirls gliding the stage, an opportunity afforded to him in 1980, when he was offered an apprenticeship at the Folies Bergeres, a famous cabaret in Paris.
In 1982, he moved to Charles Jourdan at Romans, which at the time created shoes for the house of Christian Dior, who taught him the ins and outs of the shoe business. Soon after, Louboutin became an apprentice in the workshop of Roger Vivier, the designer who claims to have invented the stiletto.
This afforded him subsequent freelance opportunities for various prestigious design houses including Maud Frison, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.
In the late 1980s, he turned away from fashion to become a landscape gardener and to contribute to Vogue but missed working with shoes
Armed with experience in shoe designing, he felt confident to strike out on his own. After working as a freelance shoe designer for a time, Louboutin opened his first shop in Paris in 1991 upon hearing of a newly available boutique in the Vero-Dodat gallerie, a stylish Parisian arcade located close to the Louvre. Christian and two other friends came together as business associates to officially form Christian Louboutin, the company.
One of his first famous customers was Princess Caroline of Monaco, and her public compliments about Louboutin’s high heel shoes greatly helped amplify his name and prominence. Clients such as Diane von Fürstenberg and Catherine Deneuve followed. Later, those interested in his stiletto heels have included Christina Aguilera, Shirley Coates, Joan Collins, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Tina Turner, Marion Cotillard, Nicki Minaj, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Blake Lively. Sarah Jessica Parker wore a pair of shoes by Louboutin for her wedding. Britney Spears wears a pair of high-heeled Louboutins in her music video "If U Seek Amy" that were not available for sale until a month after the video was released.
Back in 1993 when he had been in business for about two years, "Louboutin had thought of making a shoe inspired by Andy Warhol's 'Flowers.' The prototype, a pink stacked heel with a cartoonish cloth blossom, had arrived from Italy. 'I was very happy, because it was similar to the drawing,' Louboutin recalled, 'but the drawing still was stronger and I could not understand why.' Louboutin continued, 'There was this big black sole, and then, thank God, there was this girl painting her nails at the time. So I grabbed her nail polish and painted the sole and it becomes this red sole, which became my trademark years after," he said. Louboutin slathered it on the sole of the prototype. 'Then it popped,' he recalled, 'and I thought, This is the drawing! "Red means love, passion, blood."
His single biggest client is Danielle Steel, who is reputed to own over 6,000 pairs and is known to have purchased up to 80 pairs at a time when shopping at his stores. Ms. Steel is an American novelist, currently the best selling author alive and the fourth bestselling author of all time, with over 800 million copies sold.
In 2003, his first extension outside of shoes was the introduction of his handbags and purses line.
In 2011, he launched a collection of men's footwear at a new exclusive store in Paris.
In 2012, Louboutin partnered with Batallure Beauty LLC to launch Christian Louboutin Beauté to enter the luxury beauty market.
Louboutin entered the fragrance market in 2016 with the release of three parfums: Bikini Questa Sera, with jasmine and tuberose notes; Tornade Blonde, with rose and cassis notes; and Trouble in Heaven, with patchouli and amber notes.