If you know your fashion basics, you’d know that every brand has a signature product that acts as its insignia, a sort of letimotif – Bulgari has its Serpenti, Chanel its tweed, and Burberry its trench. Luxury shoe aficionados familiar with French designer Christian Louboutin will know that his most iconic offering are his red soles. Since the inception of the eponymous label in 1991, Louboutin has been at the forefront of footwear innovation, developing a cult following in a very short time. And the story of how in 1993 the designer launched these famed red soles is a popular one. It’s said that Louboutin spotted one of his employees applying red nail polish, and he picked up the varnish and painted the soles of a prototype, red. The result? Exquisitely crafted heels with red-lacquered soles that you’d recognise from a distance as being ‘Loubs’.
Coupled with their high craftsmanship and detailing, it’s not surprising that the concept caught every discerning fashionista’s eye, including some of the biggest names in fashion and pop culture. From Sarah Jessica Parker to Oprah Winfrey to Jane Fonda, major celebrities have slipped into these statement Louboutin red soles for the red carpet. The designer also created red soles for men – closer home, Karan Johar and Amitabh Bachchan as fans. Over the years, Louboutin red soles have become iconic, signifying an evolved sense of fashion. In 2017, Louboutin even collaborated with Sabyasachi Mukherjee to create a line featuring embroidered red sole booties, ankle-length boots, and pumps.
So how much do these red soles cost? Customised Louboutin red soles can touch a whopping US$6,000 (Rs 4 lakhs approx). In 2009, an exclusive capsule collection from the brand was Marie Antoinette, of which only 36 pairs were created, priced at US$6,200 (Rs 4.3 lakh approx).
What makes these soles expensive is the range of customisations available for them. Using the most exotic leather, embellishments, and silhouette ideas, Louboutin red soles are created keeping in mind its customer’s demands. The craftsmanship involves sketching, material selection, polishing, and finishing – a long-drawn process of 30 steps – which all add up to the price tag of the red soles.
Prior to the leather-cutting, the sketches are transformed into tri-dimensional designs – the brand ensures that experienced cutters work in exclusive pairs. This is followed by stitching, and sometimes the upper can be made of multiple materials. The formation of handmade soles are brought in from different factories. The process of applying red lacquer ensures seamless results, giving the perfect red bottom look every time. The surface detailing gives Louboutin red soles its ultimate appeal – Swarovski crystals, 3D applique, alligator skin, gold chains, and sequins – there is hardly any idea that is out of Louboutin’s grasp. The footwear is manufactured in Naples, Italy, and Louboutin’s workshop in Paris.
The customisation services start at US$4,000 (Rs 3 lakhs), and when you have loyal clients such as novelist Danielle Steel who owns over 6,000 Louboutin pairs, there is hardly anything out of bounds. The only think to do is start thinking of what you want (and saving up).
All images: Courtesy Christian Louboutin