Christian Louboutin doesn't just want to paint the soles of your shoes red. He wants to paint your fingernails and, eventually, your lips, eyes and cheeks.
This month, the famed French footwear designer launches his beauty collection, which has been 2 1/2 years in the making.
He's starting slowly, with a single nail polish shade: Rouge Louboutin, a rich red lacquer that's just a click off the hue of his signature soles, to make sure it works with all skin tones, he says. Then, on Sept. 1, three new color families will be released — Nudes, Noirs and Pops — for a total of 31 shades, all of them named after shoe styles.
"I love landscaping. It's such a human idea, instead of nature created by God. I've always thought of beauty as an opportunity for women to be in charge of their own appearances," he says over breakfast in his suite at the Chateau Marmont, his home-away-from-home in L.A. where I found him watering the plants on the terrace and buttering the vegan crackers he picked up from Erewhon Natural Foods, as any good Frenchman would.
Louboutin's foray into the world of beauty seems predetermined, for it was a bottle of nail polish that gave his shoes their true magic.
He had just started designing shoes when, in 1992, that perfect shade of red changed his life. He was tinkering with a collection inspired by Pop art, including a Mary Jane pump with a bold flower detail outlined in black. Louboutin arrived at the factory to inspect the prototype, and the shoe looked different from his sketch. "There was a lot of black, the sole was black; it wasn't working," he says. At that same moment, his assistant Sarah was polishing her nails, and Louboutin grabbed her red polish and painted it on the soles of the prototype.
The rest is history. His designs have spawned a global luxury brand of women's and men's shoes and accessories. The red soles became a signature, and then a trademark, which Louboutin has fought hard in court to protect.
His move into beauty began in 2012, when he signed a deal with New York-based Batallure Beauty, which has created beauty brands for Abercrombie & Fitch, Marchesa, Sephora and Splendid, among others.
"It should have taken a year-and-a-half to develop the product. It took longer, but I love it," he says. "It's 22 years since I started my company, and I never put my name on anything [else]. I have been asked many times, from fashion to cars. I never wanted to do it if I wasn't into it or it wasn't legitimate."
Rouge Louboutin is packaged in an ombre-hued, faceted crystal cube inspired by a chandelier crystal, with a handle that tapers to a stiletto-sharp point. The handle is modeled after the designer's highest heel, 8 inches, on his 2007 Ballerina Ultima fetish shoe.
The polish is being sold at Christian Louboutin boutiques and major department stores — in the shoe salon, not at the beauty counter. Color collections will be released seasonally, along with the shoes. It's a beauty product as accessory, and at $50 a bottle, it may be among the most expensive nail lacquers on the market.
"I couldn't worry about that," he says. "It needed to be done perfectly. There was no reason to add an ordinary product to the beauty category; there is enough of that."
Louboutin, whose father was a carpenter, sees the bottle design as a piece of a bigger beauty landscape that's still being built.
"I had a vision of a dark city with all these minarets, towers, mountains and skyscrapers sticking up, and the sun coming out to light one after another," he says. Director David Lynch helped him realize his vision of Loubiville, as he calls it, in a fantastical short film introducing the beauty collection on ChristianLouboutin.com.
The whole idea is so cinematic, one can almost imagine it at Disneyland. The designer did team up with Disney to reimagine the "Cinderella" slipper, coinciding with the 2012 Blu-ray release of the film. Earlier this year, he made Angelina Jolie a villainous-looking shoe to wear while promoting her film "Maleficent," with a sculpted heel that curves away from the wedge sole like a tendril of smoke. And now that style, named the Malengeli, is available in stores with proceeds benefiting SOS Children's Villages, one of Jolie's favorite charities.
Louboutin admits he hasn't visited the theme park in years. During the rest of his stay in L.A., he has friends to see and hiking trails to explore.
But first, he's spotted a well-manicured topiary on a neighboring terrace across the hillside. "I need to take a photo," he says.
For Loubiville, perhaps.
Christian Louboutin's favorite things when he's in Los Angeles
When the French shoe designer is spending any length of time in the U.S., it's usually in L.A., where he resides at the Chateau Marmont. Here are a few of his favorite L.A. pastimes.
My first love is fine arts and objects, and I always go to Blackman Cruz and JF Chen. On my way to Venice the other day, I discovered a guy making things out of reclaimed wood. The place is called Arenbeology.
I love the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena. There's so much to see. I also like to take hikes. I tell my friends I will go anywhere, as long as it's under three hours. I like the hike up to the Hollywood sign.
Erewhon for juices and snacks.
L.A. is one of the only places I eat Italian food other than Italy, where I spend so much time because of my factories. I like Cecconi's and Madeo.