Red soles were everywhere in sight at Canada’s Design Exchange Museum for Thursday’s hot ticket media conference – on the manicured feet of the media, the PR people and Design Exchange representatives, and, of course, everywhere in the building’s Historic Trading Floor. The much-anticipated Christian Louboutin exhibit, originally featured at The Design Museum, London, has finally made its way to Toronto. Arriving fashionably late (he was apparently putting the finishing touches on the exhibit), Mr. Louboutin himself was in town for a Q&A and media sneak peek of the exhibit on Thursday in advance of its public opening on Friday.
The event began with a press conference and Q&A lead by Donna Lovesday, the Head of Curatorial at the Design Museum, London, and Shauna Levy, the President of Canada’s Design Exchange Museum. In the talk, Louboutin, wearing a crisp camel blazer with royal blue trim, discussed the challenge in selecting the 250 shoes that are featured in the exhibit, and Lovesday added that they could have chosen many, many more than they did. Louboutin said that he gains his inspiration from women themselves and his (fabulous) life in general; this means things like travel, entertainment and architecture, and this is reflected in the exhibit.
Louboutin said that he was also inspired by his father’s craftsmanship with wood and grew up watching him work. He called himself a “free spirit,” saying that if you are one, there are no limits to creativity. He did reveal, however, that his geographic location is of important influence on his creative process, telling the crowd that when he designs summer shoes, he stays in a warm climate where he could envision the shoes worn, like his house in Egypt or with friends in Brazil. He says he heads to his cottage when designing for winter. Louboutin admits, however, that he finds it distracting to work anywhere close to a garden as he loves to garden and will abandon his work in favour of it.
When asked by a journalist how he felt about the lengths women around the world will go to obtain his coveted (but very expensive) shoes, making reference to a woman who was found stealing from her work to support her Louboutin shoe fetish, Louboutin said that the story “was crazy” but admitted that he was actually flattered by it and that it made him smile. He said he loved Toronto as a destination of choice for the exhibition, commenting on the city’s international character (Louboutin answered some questions from French media in French) and said he has been here before to the Bata Shoe Museum.
Well, we’re glad it made its way to Toronto, and the exhibit left us feeling driven to work even harder to one day obtain a multi-seasonal collection of the famous footwear ourselves. Christian Louboutin at Design Exchange is like being inside a princess with a wild side’s walk-in closet – very theatrical, magical, dramatic and gorgeous. It features 250 of the beloved red-soled shoes of all styles and inspiration – from classic to unwearable and outrageous – in an array of colours and materials. The space is broken down into different themed displays that are designed to reflect Louboutin’s life and sources of inspiration, where his ideas come from and how he works. Quotes from the lips of the designer himself provide context and inspiration behind each display.
Upon entry, the Shadow Theatre highlights the distinctive sensual silhouette of the Christian Louboutin shoe, exploring the relationship between design and reality that is so important to the designer. Viewing a shoe in its shadow form is important in the design in terms of line, heel and proportion, says curator Donna Loveday.
Centre stage is “The Showgirl” display, where the inspiration is conveyed through an abstracted form of the iconic red sole that acts as a stage for showgirl-inspired collections of shoes that are clearly designed for taking as few steps in the evening as possible. This area is complete with a performance area that draws the viewer’s attention to a hologram, commissioned for the exhibit that features sultry burlesque performer Dita Von Teese, a muse of Louboutin.
It is no surprise that Louboutin has designed footwear for some of the world’s most recognized figures in the entertainment world. The entertainment influence is reflected on a full wall that it is inspired by everything from film, music and theatre to the circus and Tina Turner, who you could instantly envision in the assortment of thigh-high fringed boots.
The influence of travel on Louboutin’s creations is represented by a collection of shoes on display on a fairytale-like carousel that is covered with images of Louboutin’s experiences abroad. Louboutin is also heavily inspired by architecture, which is reflected in the exhibit as an enclosed space that takes the form of a topiary garden, showcasing the application and effect of lines and curves within shoe design.
The Handcrafted display features an eclectic mix of unique creations, which exemplify Louboutin’s use of unusual techniques and materials and his love of traditional craftsmanship. This means such creative works as shoes inspired by Rolls Royce and Guinness beer cans. The designer’s love of illusion is reflected in the Transparency display, which showcases his use of illusion using a variety of materials in footwear design, like chiffon, mesh, plastic, lace and other materials.
Cameras were strictly off limits in the Fetish display, a labyrinth that guests enter through the large-scale graphic of the legs of a showgirl. It houses the images from Louboutin’s 2007 collaboration with filmmaker, David Lynch on the “Fetish” exhibition, originally at Galerie du Passage in Paris. Louboutin designs provocative shoes photographed by Lynch.
The Atelier display offers a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes work in creating Louboutin’s iconic works of art. The section offers an accurate to scale recreation of Louboutin’s working area in Paris, complete with drawings, sketches, notes and even a hand-written thank you note from Miss Piggy herself.
An added bonus to the exhibit is the exclusive collection of Christian Louboutin products available at Swipe DX in the museum lobby. This includes things like cards and stationary, the Christian Louboutin ornate hardbound lined notebook, temporary tattoos, Christian Louboutin’s Little Red Guide to Toronto and more.
Making for a fun Thursday evening fusion of fashion and fun, The Design Exchange in partnership with Grand Marnier will host a series of exclusive Thursday night events throughout the duration of the exhibition, themed Grand Soiree. The evening features signature Grand Marnier cocktails, canapés by Parts and Labour and incredible prizes, including a grand prize draw that includes a $5,000 shopping experience complete with your own personal shopper at Sherway Gardens, a $1,000 gift pack from Shu Uemura and, of course, a pair of Louboutin shoes. The Grand Soiree will take place June 27, July 18, August 15 and September 12 from 5-9pm at The Design Exchange. Christian Louboutin at the Design Exchange runs until September 15. Find more information here.
Curious to see who was there? Click here for the gallery.
Photos by George Pimentel