Blake has previously compared the feeling she gets from her “magical” Louboutins with the emotions she experienced first watching Walt Disney’s Cinderella (the 1950s animated film, not the live-action version which didn’t come about until 2015).
That happened when Blake attended the 24th Annual Footwear News Achievement Awards at MOMA on November 30, 2010 in New York City clad in a pair of Louboutins.
The relationship between the shoes and Cinderella was all that the actress could be drawn into speaking about. “They’re magical,” Blake told the assembled press, saying:
It’s the same feeling you got when you watched Cinderella.You know the feeling you got when you watched Cinderella?
Every time you slip into a pair of his shoes, they make you feel empowered, they make you feel beautiful, they make you feel magical. You can be anybody you want to be.
Christian Louboutin returned the favor less than a year later, at his book launch in November 2011. Gushing about Blake as his muse, he said:
She has proved that she is really intelligent, and she also has this natural beauty and this natural way of moving, which makes her absolutely a great image.
It’s 100% a mystery to me why more designers don’t produce high heel sneakers. Every time a pair come on the market they fly off the shelves.
Anyhow, Christian Louboutin knows a money-making shoe when he sees one, hence his new Boltina trainer high heel.
This new 4.8 inch stiletto has mesh side-panels and lining just like a sneaker. However dig beneath the surface and you’ll find the designer’s iconic red-sole – which is leather of course.
The sneaker high heel has a Christian Louboutin logo detail on both the tongue and heel.
UPDATE: as at at 10 March 2016, this shoe has sold out and is unavailable for sale. It was once sold from Neiman Marcus for $1,095 in April 2015. If this high heeled sneaker becomes available again we will link to retail outlets from this post.
With its trademark red sole and revealing toe-cleavage, the classic Pigalle pump is Christian Louboutin’s most popular and revered stiletto of his 20+ year design career.
The shoe is named Pigalle after one of Louboutin’s favorite neighborhoods in Paris: the Quartier Pigalle is home to the famous Moulin Rogue cabaret as well as dozens of other theatres and shows.
Pigalle comes in a range of different heel heights besides the 120mm (5 inches) shown here. They include the more walkable 100mm (4 inches) and 85mm (3.4 inches) versions.
Since debuting in 2004, the shoe has been produced in a vast range of colors and of diverse materials including python and watersnake.
Spiked versions and even flat versions of the Pigalle are on sale right now. However the classic shiny black patent leather red-soled shoe on a 5 inch heel is the original and most loved Pigalle look of all time.
Pigalle is the most famous and recognisable Louboutin of all time. So much so that Louboutin has himself described it as “the design that encapsulates my career.”
Louboutin has made plenty of classic pumps (including the relatively new celeb favourite the So Kate) but Pigalle will always be the indispensable heel in any designer shoe wardrobe.
At the 10th birthday party of his favourite high heels, HighHeelsDaily.com reflects on the secrets to Christian Louboutin’s success.
Now nearly as famous as its creator himself, this season Christian Louboutin’s iconic black high heel the Pigalle turned 10 years old. A sleek, low-cut heel with Louboutin’s trademark red sole, Pigalle’s soaring stiletto is the designer’s most popular heel of his spectacular 23-year career. In an area of fashion in which trends change so quickly, Pigalle’s success merits investigation. For despite its longevity and price tag – the basic model costs US$625 a pair – in 2014 the shoes still sell out as quickly as their designer can stock his shelves.
Pigalle was born a decade ago for the European Autumn/Winter season of 2004. That was the same year that Sex and the City ended its run, a show that did as much as anything to spawn society’s obsession with high priced designer shoes. Like the creators of this iconic show, Louboutin realised that sex sells: everything about Pigalle is at least faintly sexually suggestive, from its red sole to its highly-reflective black patent leather and thin spike heel. The front vamp is even cut extra low to deliberately reveal generous portions of “toe-cleavage” – the gaps between the wearer’s toes that Louboutin has referred to as a woman’s “third cleavage” (the other two being chests and bottoms naturally).
The simplicity of Pigalle is, in truth, a shoe designer’s deception. Every single part of every shoe is handmade at Louboutin’s factory in Italy. It is a labour-intensive affair with at least ten workers involved in creating every pair. Perfection bordering on obsession is the yardstick. The process is in fact typical of high-end, handmade shoes: rival brand Sergio Rossi claims that its heels go through a minimum of 120 different steps before being placed in a box to go to market.
The engineering of Pigalle also defies its simple looks. Louboutin has revealed that a plain pump like Pigalle is actually the most difficult style of shoe to create because it needs to look good on a variety of feet. Last year Sandra Choi, head designer at Jimmy Choo, was quoted to similar effect.
Designers of course have a vested interest in talking up the complexity of what they do, not least a financial interest. Designer shoes have been estimated as having increased in price by at least 50% in the last decade. In 2010 Louboutin blamed the hike on the Euro, telling the Guardian that “[e]verything got more expensive, even bread.” Two years later, Louboutin CEO Alexis Mourot called price “a very sensitive issue” and said the company was taking it very seriously.
Meanwhile, and although Louboutin is coy about the exact figures, retail sales were reported to have exceeded £154 million in 2010 and US$300 million the following year – comfortably double digit growth. Sales of his relatively new men’s line were said by Louboutin last year to be “approaching 25% of our business,” suggesting that this area will grow the brand even further in the future.
Even accounting for the steep price tags, that’s a lot of shoes. In 2011 Louboutin sold around 700,000 pairs – over 1,900 pairs per day. The turnover can generate immense profit for all concerned: retail margins on high-end women’s footwear can be as high as 50%, and luxury shoes generate more profit per square metre of retail space than any other department store item.
Louboutin is doing his best to spend what he makes of it. The designer has been quoted saying that he has “an addiction to buying houses” (Louboutin owns a property in Paris, a thirteenth-century castle in the Vendée, a fisherman’s cottage in Portugal and a place in Aleppo. He also has a houseboat in Luxor for good measure).
It has not all been plain sailing. Louboutin has fought fiercely to protect intellectual property rights to the red soles of his heels (the soles have once been painted yellow before to advertise UK department store Selfridges, but most requests to change from the iconic red have been turned down). “Red sole battles” have included litigation with labels such as Saint Laurent, Charles Jourdan and Zara, generating mixed results and some adverse publicity. Back in 2009, now defunct Australian retailer Peep Toe Shoes changed from using red soles on their shoes after coming to the attention of Louboutin’s lawyers.
Counterfeiters are also a problem. The company maintains a multi-faceted approach to stopping the sale of fakes online, describing its standpoint as “zero tolerance.” To this end, in 2003 Louboutin successfully had over 9,500 pages infringing Louboutin copyrights removed from search engine indexes. This month the company collaborated with authorities in the seizure of 292 domain names that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online.
Seizures of counterfeit products are also regular, and are recorded on Louboutin’s website. This month, 200 pairs of fakes have already been seized in China. That number pales in comparison to a 2012 confiscation made by U.S. Customs and Border Protection of some 20,457 pairs of counterfeit Christian Louboutin shoes which landed in Los Angeles from China. The cost of making each was estimated at under $3 per pair, with a potential retail value thought to be $18 million – a staggering potential profit for the infringers.
All of this background work has assisted in Pigalle’s success, such that it is now Louboutin’s number one selling shoe of all time. And Pigalle has helped Louboutin: from humble beginnings in 1991 (the line was losing money in its second season), the French designer is now the most famous name in women’s footwear.
Like its creator, Pigalle has not stood still. The shoe now comes in a range of different heel heights besides the original 5 inch heel. They include more walkable 4 inch and 3.4 inch versions. Over the years, the shoe has been produced in a vast range of colors and of diverse materials including python and watersnake. Spiked versions and even flat versions of Pigalle are on sale right now.
The cut of the shoe and shape of the heel have also changed slightly since the shoe’s inception, annoying some devotees. However, at its heart, the name “Pigalle” remains associated with a classic shiny black patent leather red-soled shoe on a 5 inch heel, the most loved Louboutin look of all time. It is fair to say that, despite Louboutin’s tinkerings, Pigalle retains all the style and sassiness it has had since back in 2004 when Louboutin named the shoe after one of his favourite neighbourhoods in Paris, the Quartier Pigalle.
Which makes it appropriate now for the designer to pause for reflection. At Pigalle’s tenth birthday party this season Louboutin said, “It’s not a seasonal shoe, but one that lasts a lifetime. You can wear it in winter or summer; it’s suede or leather, shiny or matte. But to my mind, it reaches its maximum expression in black patent leather, because of the colour of the sole and the precision of the design.” Millions of women would agree.
Years earlier, Louboutin described Pigalle more simply. It’s “the design that encapsulates my career,” he said. It is difficult to argue with that either.
Christian Louboutin’s Pigalle Follies are a new twist on the designer’s classic Pigalle heel – but not everyone is impressed. Louboutin describes the Follies as a “brand new variation on a very classic theme” but consumers have been quick to compare old and new, and not everyone likes the change.
Officially Christian Louboutin says that the iconic Pigalle (his number one selling shoe of all time) has been “refitted with a slightly shorter toe box and a superfine stiletto heel.” Unofficially, the Follies are simply the old Pigalle front with the thinner So Kate heel at the rear. The animation above shows the three different shoes in 120mm heel height (5 inches): the Follies are in blue lace, followed by So Kate (nude) and the original Pigalle (black).
In a second animation below, we compare Pigalle Follies (red) and the original Pigalle (black). We’ll leave it to you to make up your own minds.
Back in April 2012 poor old Christian Louboutin was quoted as telling Grazia that he had “not so much sympathy” for women wearing his designer high heels. “High heels are pleasure with pain. If you can’t walk in them, don’t wear them,” Christian thundered, causing a predictable outcry.
This followed 2011’s hullabaloo when Christian told the New Yorker ‘I HATE the whole concept of comfort!” Women in ugly shoes wrote furious newspaper columns in protest. These were largely ignored and sales of the red soled shoes continued their rise.
Fast-forward a year or so and Christian Louboutin says he was misquoted on the issue of comfort. So what did he really think about the importance of comfort to wearers of high heels? And what about two other leading design brands in Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik? Do they really care about comfort when producing their high-end (and high-price) stilettos? Who cares more?
And, while we’re at it, do these big-name designers ever try on their shoes themselves?
So many questions! For the answers to all of them, read on.
Gold medal for comfort: Manolo Blahnik
The granddaddy of shoe designers (he turns 72 this year) gets first prize of the three contenders for caring about comfort when designing women’s shoes. How much does Manolo Blahnik care about comfort when designing shoes? The short answer is that he cares about it a lot. In 2012 Manolo told the Telegraph that comfort was “of paramount importance.” He continued:
Some people say you have to suffer, to have high heels that hurt. But being miserable is unnatural. There is a trick that you master over years and years, so you know exactly where the pressure on the foot will be, and that’s where you place the heel. If it’s a minute millimetre out of the way, it will be a flop.
In March 2014 Manolo confirmed to the Observer that “Women’s comfort is of great importance to me.” So what is the secret to designing comfortable stilettos? “The key to making a high shoe comfortable is symmetry and balance. Everyone in my factories tries on the shoes until we have it just right. I have learned over the years that there are many little tricks, like making sure the ball of the foot is comfortable first.”
That just leaves the question of whether Manolo Blahnik tries on the shoes he designs. Well, the answer is yes… and no. Back in 2011, Manolo told Hemispheres “Oh goodness, immediately, yes! If it’s wrong, I can detect it in seconds!” However, last month the designer confessed to the Observer that his body was no longer up to it: “Sadly, I can’t do that any more since I broke my tendon,” he said.
Not to worry, as workers in Manolo’s factory in Milan still road test his shoes. “One, she is huge, with big, Mediterranean feet, but I know 100 per cent that if she can walk in my shoes properly, the shoe is good,” he quipped to the Telegraph just after turning 70.
Silver medal for comfort: Jimmy Choo
Jimmy Choo’s attitude to comfortable shoes seems unequivocal: back in 2013 he was asked what shoes he would take travelling if he could only take one pair. “It would have to be a comfortable pair,” Jimmy told the Telegraph‘s Travel section. “When we walk we need comfortable shoes to hold our feet. I also like to wear slippers. I’m always reminding my family, ‘Slippers, slippers, slippers!’. Feet are very important.”
However Jimmy Choo hasn’t been a part of the brand that bears his own name since selling out in 2001 after his relationship with Tamara Mellon broke down. Worse still, as Tamara asserted when promoting her autobiography in 2013, Jimmy never actually designed any of the shoes sold by the Jimmy Choo brand even when he was part of it. In 2013, when asked by interviewer Jenna Bush-Hager on America’s Today show whether Jimmy designed any of the heels, Tamara answered: “Not one. Not one sketch did I get from him. Not one.”
In truth, the Jimmy Choo range was always designed by Sandra Choi, Jimmy’s niece. Sandra is now the sole creative director at the label and, like her uncle, she also seems to take comfort seriously. “Talking about comfort is not very sexy,” Sandra told The Cut in 2013, “but our shoes do fit well, and that makes a difference when you need to stride around and look confident.” Speaking to the Fix last year, Sandra elaborated and explained her role as unofficial shoe-tester-in-chief:
First of all, I’ve been trying the shoes on for years. Since you put your entire body weight into your shoes, they should be comfortable! Maybe not for 24 hours a day, but if I can do something to make them a bit more comfortable without sacrificing style, I will. It’s not very sexy to talk about comfort, so we don’t talk about it. But people do mention it, and it’s a nice, proud factor of what we do.
The quality of leather helps the shoe shape to the foot. When we try on certain shoes for fittings, I don’t just try it on one person; I try it on several people! I like to have everyone try them on so I get an average fit. It doesn’t matter how beautiful a shoe is—if it’s uncomfortable, sometimes it’ll get left behind in your wardrobe.
Sandra’s obsession with comfort was confirmed in an interview with Tina Loves in 2012: “I actually try them all on and all the samples are made in my size and the girls in the office actually trade them around to make sure that they’re okay,” she said. And, as if that wasn’t enough, here’s what Sandra Choi told New York Magazine in 2013 about whether she tried on all the Jimmy Choos herself:
I do! I’m a little obsessed with how they look. We have a joke that everyone who works for the team must have a size 37 foot so that they can try on the shoes for me. My right foot is a size 37, my left foot is a little smaller.
Bronze medal for comfort: Christian Louboutin
As we noted above, in 2011 Christian Louboutin caused waves by telling the New Yorker that he hated the concept of comfort. That quote got a lot of headlines, and the designer elaborated on his passionate dislike in the same interview: “It’s like when people say: ‘Well we’re not really in love but we’re in a comfortable relationship.’ You’re abandoning a lot of ideas when you’re too into comfort.” Christian wasn’t a fan of the word “comfy” either:
Comfy, that’s one of the WORST words! I just picture a woman feeling bad, with a big bottle of alcohol, really puffy. It’s really depressing, but she likes her life because she has comfortable clogs.
All of this should have been enough for readers to tell that Christian was teasing a little, but it didn’t stop a PR brouhaha developing. Reflecting on the comment to Metro in 2012 Christian described it as “sort of a misquote.” “I have no problem with the idea of comfort,” the designer continued, “but it is not an important thing aesthetically. If you look at a shoe and immediately say it looks very comfortable, in terms of design, it is not going to excite me. Of course, I am not putting nails in my shoes to ensure everybody is in pain, but a heel is not a pair of slippers and never will be.’
Those comments may not win Christian a gold medal for prioritising comfort, but is that such a bad thing? Christian further explained his priorities to CBS News in 2013:
Design is my most important thing, but then after I have tricks to make in order to make those shoes as comfortable as possible, but it’s true that the comfort is not my first thing. If you look at my shoes I just don’t want you to tell me “Oh my God it looks so comfy.” That’s not a thing that I would take as a compliment.
Knowing all this, has Christian Louboutin ever tried wearing his own shoes? The answer is yes, but only twice. The first time was at a cross-dressing themed party. “And another time I was making heels and I was trying to understand the balance, the center of gravity. It was very technical, so I can’t say I’ve worn high heels for excitement, or to feel like a woman,” the designer confessed to Popsugar Fashion News back in 2010.
Once or twice was enough though. “I can understand that it is not like walking on sneakers,” Christian told CBS News in 2013.
Here’s a little something that might well surprise you: according to leading shoemakers, the hardest high heel shoe to make is actually the one that looks the most simple. Believe it or not, those in charge of high heel design at Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo have both labelled the classic, high heeled pump as the trickiest shoe to perfect.
This perhaps curious fact was revealed back in 2012 when Christian Louboutin told the UK’s Metro website that “the most difficult style to do is the plain pump because it needs to look good on a variety of feet.” A year later Sanda Choi, the then newly-annointed head designer at Jimmy Choo, agreed. ” One of the hardest things to do is a plain pump, but just adding a millimeter here and there makes a difference,” she confessed to New York Magazine.
Louboutin stressed that window dressing could not save a poorly designed pump, and compared it to having a good bone structure. “Make-up will make you look good but it helps if you have a good skeleton to begin with,” he said. “You can add flowers and diamonds to a pump but, at the end of the day, the structure needs to be good.”
While producing the perfect pump might not be easy, Louboutin and Choo have come as close as anyone to achieving it. In each case, their plain black leather pump is the top-selling shoe in their range, and retails for around $600. The shoes are called the Pigalle and the Anouk respectively and we played “spot the difference” with them when the Anouk was first launched in 2012.
Kylie Minogue has been rocking stilettos since she stepped out of Charlene’s workboots in Neighbours, which is pretty much forever. The Aussie star has always posted plenty of high heel pictures on her social media sites and her 2014 shoe collection is better than ever. Is it the best in the world? Maybe. Are we jealous? Yes!
Below are the high heel pictures Kylie has posted on her Instagram page this year.
On 26 February 2014 Kylie’s shoe of the day (tagged #shoeoftheday) was a pair of glittering Dolce & Gabbana stiletto sandals (see below).
Kylie Minogue’s shoe of the day on 7 February 2014 was by Casadei. She’s wearing the designer’s iconic Blade pointed toe pump in pink nappa leather. Blade has a 4.5 inch silver laquered heel made from real steel, with a 0.4 inch concealed plateau. The pink stilettos retail from Casadei for around $690 (€620).
Kylie’s shoe of the day for 3 February 2014 was a versatile and understated black Giuseppe Zanotti pump. Her Instagram selfie was taken during a photo shoot for New York based Australian fashion photographer Will Davidson.
Last but not least come the Christian Louboutins. Kylie nominated her red soled stilettos as her daily shoe pick on 29 January 2014. The shoes are the towering 120mm (5 inch) So Kate heels, seen here in a multi-colored design on a python skin upper. O.M.G.
Here’s an early contender for the most coveted high heel of 2014, and there’s no surprise that it comes from Christian Louboutin. Meet the Youpi peep toe stiletto with 4.5 inch self-covered heel, which is now available online at Saks for $625. In a pretty sure sign of things to come, some sizes have already sold out even though the shoe is only available on pre-order at this point in time.
Youpi is the most beautiful peep toe we’ve seen Christian Louboutin make in recent memory, so it is little wonder that the shoe is being snapped up. Its mirrored patent leather upper evokes comparison with Louboutin’s most famous shoe – the Pigalle. The thin stiletto heel looks a lot like Louboutin’s sexy so So Kate pump (although Youpi is half an inch shorter, making it easier to walk in). And all three high heels have the same price tag of $625, and bear the designer’s signature red leather soles.
The Youpi is hand-made in Italy and has a leather lining and padded insole for comfort. The shoe can be pre-ordered from Saks right now. And, in case you’re wondering about the name, Youpi is a French expression meaning “yippee!” or “yahoo!” which seems quite appropriate. Youpi! for Youpi indeed.