Friday, August 5, 2011

Protecting the Red

@Christian Louboutin, 2006

When visiting England, many Americans like to visit the Spode and Wedgwood works to see where these famous brands of china are made. In Ireland it used to be Waterford. In France, one visits vineyards and perfumeries. In Italy, there are artists and craftspeople everywhere.

For my wife, no visit to Paris would have been complete without a stop at Christian Louboutin, the maker of those stylish and outrageously expensive women’s shoes distinguishable by their red soles.

In her defense, I will concede that this was more of a happy coincidence than a must-see imperative. We’d done a whirlwind walk-through of the famous boutiques along the Champs Elysees on an earlier visit to Paris. But those visits were more out of curiosity than anything else. And, in any event, my wife did not feel compelled to spend so much as a sou, franc, Euro or penny in any of those places.

However, when we happened to find ourselves nosing around a quiet little end of the rue de Grenelle off the Boulevard Raspail and noticed the Christian Louboutin store, I could tell this was different.

My wife, of course, went straight for the shoes. It might help to know that my wife and her sisters are attributed within the family to have an Imelda Marcos-like love of shoes. I, on the other hand, have spent much of my career involved in various aspects of retail marketing, so I was more curious to see how the store presented its products.

I’m not up on the latest in haute couture shoe retailing. But I was dazzled by the way this little shop displayed its wares. Each style of shoe was featured in its own little alcove bathed in the warm reflection of Louboutin’s trademark red color.

Although my wife didn’t buy anything at Christian Louboutin that day, I’m almost sure I heard purring from her direction.

The real entertainment turned out to be watching a Louboutin representative explain to a pair of very pushy Russian ladies why he wasn’t allowed to ship alligator-skin shoes out of France. Perhaps these ladies were the wives of Russia’s new class of petrobillionaires. Whatever the case, they were accustomed to being able to throw enough money around to get what they wanted and refused to accept the representative’s story. Couldn’t they just ship it to Moscow with a fictitious customs form? No, Madame. Could they ship it to the one woman’s villa in Italy? Mais non, Madame! They kept yelling at him in Russian. I studied the Russian language back in high school and college, but am so rusty these days that all I could pick out from the conversation was something to the effect of, “Just wait until our husbands hear about this!”

The second entertainment was equally entertaining and involved me getting thrown out of the store by a security guard for taking the picture shown above. Christian Louboutin, it can be safely said, doesn’t take any chances when it comes to product design piracy.


  1. I've been tossed out of a few bars in my day but never a shoe store. Chris, you da man!

  2. Hahaaa! Great story, and wonderful photo!

    I admit I love looking at their shoes, but I doubt I'll ever own any--they're so expensive. My sisters and I are like your wife when it comes to shoes and fabric. When we were kids, growing up, we used to head to Kolber Sladkus, a great shoe store that had really amazing sales at the end of each season. We girls and my mom would head there and walk out of those sale days with bags and bags of Italian, Spanish, and French shoes. They were normally way more expensive, and we had great fun calculating how much we'd "saved" by buying all those shoes. We always had gorgeous shoes. Once I was in college, and couldn't find anywhere even remotely comparable, my shoes were not quite as elegant as they used to be. I still miss that place.