Christian Louboutin, French shoe designer, was born in Paris 1964. His iconic element is the high-end stiletto, with the red sole. At the age of 12 his true fascination with shoes began when he visited the Musée National des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie, where he saw a sign forbidding women wearing sharp stilettos from entering a building, for fear of damage to the wood flooring. This image inspired his work.
Christian expresses, “I wanted to create something that broke rules and made women feel confident and empowered.”
He studied drawing and decorative arts at the Académie d’Art Roederer. In his teens he left for Egypt, and spent a year in India. After this he came back to Paris in 1981. He created a portfolio full of his extravagant high heel drawings and sent it to the top fashion houses. This was a success, and he was hired by Charles Jourdan, one of the most respected shoemakers in Paris. Through his work with Jourdan, he met Roger Vivier, who claimed to have invented the stiletto, and they started a long and meaningful collaboration. Also, he freelanced for Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.
In the late 80’s he left fashion, became a landscape gardener, and contributed to Vogue Paris. This only lasted a few years before he started to miss working with shoes, and decided to launch his company in 1991. His first collection was presented in 1991, then in 1992 he opened a boutique on Rue Rousseau in Paris. Princess Caroline of Monaco was his first customer. She complemented the store when a journalist was present and he published her comments, which helped Louboutin gain recognition. After this, clients such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Cher, and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy soon followed.
The Louboutin signature is the red sole, first created in 1993. He claimed he was trying to liven up the design of his shoes, when he “spontaneously grabbed his assistants red nail polish and started painting the sole red.” He exclaimed, “I instantly knew that it would be a success.” Through the 90’s and 2000’s Louboutin brought back the popularity of the stiletto, and in 1998 he received the Fashion Footwear Association of New York Award for the best shoe designer of the year.
In 2003 he extended outside of shoes and launched his first collection of handbags. Then, in 2011 he launched his first men’s line.
Since the brand’s launch, Christian Louboutin’s creations have been immortalized in museums, on fashion week runways, red carpets, and in pop culture around the world. A woman’s natural beauty has always been at the center of the designer’s inspiration. 2014 welcomed the launch of Christian Louboutin Beauté with its first nail polish, Rouge Louboutin, accompanied by a full range of Noirs, Nudes and Pop colors. The brand’s highly anticipated ‘second chapter’ of beauty, lipstick, launched in September 2015, followed by three signature Christian Louboutin fragrances in September 2016 and a striking collection of eye amplifiers, Les Yeux Noirs, in March 2017.
With a prolific collection of women’s and men’s shoes, day and evening handbags, and small leather goods Christian Louboutin now counts more than one hundred boutiques around the world. Also, there are several locations dedicated to men’s and a one-of-a-kind beauty boutique located in the heart of Paris’ 1st arrondisment, just two doors away from 19 Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Paul Smith (1946) is an English tailor and designer. The first thing he sold was a pocket handkerchief with the British flag. Today, in the stores, everything is from robots to ties. He is always unconventional. It has transformed the tailoring into an explosion of colors, inventions, fashion trends combined with the oldest quality of fabrics. He still has the spirit of a twenty-something, cutting-edge designer, which is why he continues to ride the crest of the wave.
His clothes are like his personality: amusing and serious at the same time, eccentric but wearable. He opened a multi-brand shop in Nottingham in 1970, and nine years later opened his first proper shop, revolutionizing the concept of selling space, which from then on was no longer just the space used for the display of goods, but a meeting point for anyone interested in style.
His first menswear fashion show was in 1976 in Paris. From that point on the label has grown from strength to strength. The brand’s reputation has never ceased to grow. He has also been asked to be a consultant to the Prime Minister Tony Blair.
You Can Find Inspiration in Everything (and if you cannot, look again!)
In February 2001, Paul Smith joined The Queen on the Birthday Honors List, an acknowledgment of his contribution to British fashion. Later, in November he published You can get inspiration from anything (and if you cannot, look again!). It is not a fashion monograph, nor a clothing catalog, but a collection of images where the author is portrayed in the most diverse situations. The volume, 288 pages, was edited by Alan Aboud who has co-authored the author as an art director for more than ten years. The project was also signed by Jonathan Ive (iMac designer). At the same time, he opened a shop in London at the Royal Exchange.
Paul Smith in Milan
In March 2002, Paul Smith opened his first single store in Italy, via Manzoni in Milan. The project is by Sophie Hicks. Then, the first men’s shoe store was opened in Paris. The following month, in collaboration with Cappellini, the Mondo furniture collection will be launched during the Milan Furniture Show.
During the same period, the designer organized Great Brits, an exhibition that pays homage to the greatest British designers. The exhibition was held in his own studio in Milan at Viale Umbria 95. The designer chose four young names: D. Mathias Bengtsson, Tord Boontje, Daniel Brown, and Sam Buxton.
In 2003, after the enormous success achieved with the first collaboration, Reebok commissioned the designer to create a new collection of 80’s men-women shoes, named after Paul Smith, Reebok 2. The materials are mainly orange and blue nylon and real red and blue leather. Exclusively worldwide, only in the stores of Paul Smith (around 250 worldwide) you can buy the first book written by David Bowie at the “modest” sum of £ 295, Moonage Daydream: the truth behind Ziggy. Each of the 2500 numbered copies is autographed.
Boutiques and Iconic Stripes
In February 2005 he opened his first shop for the Pink line in the Daikanyama district of Tokyo. The flagship store measures 120 square meters and is entirely for womenswear and accessories. It is called Paul Smith Pink+. Then, in March he released the Black collection, following an earlier Blue version, the second official women’s line to be found in department stores such as Harvey Nichols, Harrods, and Selfridges.
Paul Smith boutiques are known for a distinguished playful design. Every boutique is designed and decorated differently, but all are full of color and character, mirroring his personality. This concept reflects his unconventional design.
In 2006, with the intention of using it only for a season, the stylist launches the iconic signature of Paul Smith Stripes. There are not many styles that can be worn either by a two year old girl, or a 35-year-old man. The stripes are perhaps the only candidate. The rows have the power to make a highly distinguishable surface, which, speaking of clothes, explains why they have never been kept in great care.
The Recent Year’s
In 2009 Paul Smith made a collection of bike clothes in association with Rapha. In this period, he opened stores in Dubai, Bangalore, Leeds, Antwerp, Los Angeles, and London.
In mid-November 2013 the company celebrated their 40th anniversary in the fashion world at the London Design Museum with the exhibition Hello, My Name is Paul Smith. The goal is to explore all aspects of the designer’s career, including future development. Accurate reproduction of Paul Smith’s studio, as well as an immersive installation, reveal some of his inspirations. The exhibition is a real journey through its collections, a day in the life of a parade and collaborations with other brands.
In 2017, in Florence, Paul Smith lit a fluorescent light in his youth line, PS by Paul Smith, and re-launched with a focus on basic clothes. The designer argues that the cornerstone of his business is the basis:
“Well done, of good quality, simple cut, made with special fabrics and easy to wear.”
Paul Smith has not presented his collection to Pitti Man for 23 years, but has considered Pitti Uomo 91 the right occasion to present his new collection. The latter translates his attitudes towards classic and bizarre in terms related to the new generations.
In 1835, at the age of fourteen, Louis Vuitton left Anchay, his native village in the Jura Mountains of eastern France, close to the Swiss border. He undertook this long journey by foot, ending up in Paris two years later. Upon his arrival, he was hired as a box maker/packer by Romain Maréchal. This work was based on manufacturing boxes and crates used to pack everyday objects and large wardrobes.
First Boutique in Paris
In 1854 he opened his first leather goods store on rue Neuve-des-Capucines, Paris. He offered very light trunks in poplar wood and baggage more suitable for the new means of transport. Then, he began to attract the admiration of fashionable people. His designs were ergonomic, made for strength, and lightness. His perfection of the flat trunk is now considered the beginning of modern luggage.
Beginning in 1859, the Asnières site, both a family residence and workshop of the company, is born. Still today, Asnières is a symbol of the Vuitton family’s personal and commercial success.
His skill is noted by Empress Eugenia of Montijo, who calls him to make his luggage. This experience helped him to understand that the old luggage used during the time of horse and bugee, with a curved form cover, had become useless obsolete. So, they decided on a modern type of luggage, which could be used in the trains, the new way of transport
Son Georges & Grandson Gaston
Louis Vuitton continuously innovates fabrics and patterns to protect the products from counterfeiting. In 1875, the creation of the first vertical wardrobe trunk, with each part being thoughtfully designed, guaranteed the success of a company already specializing in travel.
In 1886, Georges Vuitton, created the tumbler lock, an ingenious closing system. A major invention that allowed the same customer to open each piece of luggage with a single key. Later, in 1888, the Damier Canvas pattern is introduced and trademarked. Tragically, in 1892, Louis Vuitton sadly passes away and his son Georges officially takes over the company, along with his grandson Gaston-Louis.
The Monogram Canvas is Born
In 1896, the birth of the famous Monogram canvas. Louis Vuitton’s son, Georges, created the “Monogram”, a small piece of cloth printed with the initials LV that guaranteed the originality of the product. Also, he patented waxed cloth bags, like the “steamer bag.” Louis Vuitton’s grandson, Gatson, began to collect travel items and old luggage dating back to the 16th century. These pieces are now part of the collections at Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris.
Members of the aristocracy and royalty never traveled without their own special Louis Vuitton trunks and cases, for example, the Prince of Egypt Youssouf Kemal, and the Sultan Ismaïl Pacha.
For Luigi Barzini and Scipione Borghese who, in 1907, organized the Beijing-Paris car race, the maison designed rainproof cases. The trunk of the explorer Savorgnan de Brazza could even contain a camp bed, and the one made for the opera singer Lily Pons could hold 36 pairs of shoes. The trunk designed for the orchestra conductor Léopold Stokowski contained a little desk with a small table and shelves for books and music.
In 1914 Georges Vuitton unveiled a shop along the Champs Élysées in an Art Nouveau palace that became the symbolic store of the maison. Through this time the brand grew into pure luxury and in 1983 Louis Vuitton began to sponsor one of the most famous and prestigious sailing competitions.
Louis Vuitton Merges with Moët-Hennessy
Since 1959, the company’s production has expanded to include a line of bags, small leather goods, and accessories. In 1987 the company Louis Vuitton merged with Moët-Hennessy to become the colossal multinational company LVMH. Its first important acquirement came the following year: The Maison Givenchy. Bernard Arnault, in 1989, became president and starting in 1993, LVMH started acquiring diverse fashion houses Christian Lacroix, Emilio Pucci, Kenzo, Fendi, Michael Kors, and Donna Karan.
In 1998 the artistic director of the brand became Marc Jacobs, who launched in his first year the first prêt-à-porter apparel line. In the same year, the company launched a “City Guide” line of luxury travel guides in the major cities of the world; Berlin, Athens, London, Moscow, Rome and Paris.
The following year, the men’s line was introduced. Marc Jacobs work consisted in revitalizing the brand, instilling an aspect of fashion that was new. Fundamental steps in this direction were the collaborations with artists like Stephen Sprouse and Takashi Murakami that reworked the classic LV logo redecorating it with glaring modifications. Thanks as well to the advertising campaigns that used celebrities like Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, the brand was able to become an inspiration in the eyes of a public ranging from 20 to 70 years old.
Louis Vuitton City Guides
Megastores were opened in London, New York and in 2000 a flagship store in Hong Kong. In 2002 Louis Vuttion registered a turnover of €4,194 million and operating results of €1,297 millions. All markets grew: Europe (+8%), USA (+12%), Japan (+15%). At the end of the year there were 299 own-brand shops. Of these, 7 were new: 1 each in Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, Moscow, Amsterdam, Macao, and Germany, the restyled and reorganized stores numbered about 30.
In December 2002 Yves Carcelle became the president of Louis Vuitton. By 2003, the company sold goods in 50 countries exclusively through more than 300 boutiques of its own property. By April, Louis Vuitton opened its first shop in New Delhi, India. Later, in September 2004, the Shanghai store, the largest store in the Asia-Pacific area, was restyled. Louis Vuitton had 13 shops in China. At this point, Louis Vuitton was arriving in South Africa and India. Serge Brunschwig, head of South-East Asia sector says,
“The future markets are India and South Africa. We are preparing big marketing operations and the opening of stores. In this way we create an emotional impact and start to introduce the Louis Vuitton universe into the luxury niches of new consumer markets.”
Overall, the brand has 335 own-brand, own- property stores all over the world. “To mark the company’s 150 years, we have accelerated the expansion project with 21 new openings, from the New York Building on the Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, to Osaka and Shanghai.”
New Collections & Campaigns
In the 2005 campaign, the actress Uma Thurman became Louis Vuitton’s new testimonial. Later, in July, the diversification process of the French brand continued. After a line of jewelry was launched, Louis Vuitton eyewear (sunglasses) made their appearance. Zeiss is the chosen partner to produce high protection lenses.
Louis Vuitton launched new icon purses including one in Nomad Leather, a Monogram Mini Lin line, Damier Azur line, along with the new edition of the icon locks in 2006. The company published a book ‘Louis Vuitton, Icons’ by Edition Assouline. Also, new openings occurred with the Louis Vuitton House in Manhattan and Taiwan.
In 2007 The exhibition, Takashi Murakam, occurred along with a temporary opening of the Louis Vuitton boutique in a museum. This year also marked an iconic collaboration of Marc Jacobs and Richard Prince. The ‘Ultimate Travel Bag’ was created, and the Core Values Advertisement Campaign with Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Catherine Deneuve, and Mikhail Gorbachev debuted. This year also saw the opening of the first store in Cyprus, Greece.
In 2008 The Damier collection launched a new Graphite Damier line. Also, the company celebrates the 10th anniversary of the City Guides collection. Sofia Coppola is honored with a collection under her name that is launched in Tokyo. Stephen Sprouse in New York is celebrated with a tribute in his honor. In Auckland, New Zealand, the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series takes place. Another inauguration for the Takashi Murakami exhibition of Guggenheim Bilbao is admired.
Faithful to its heritage, Louis Vuitton has opened its doors to architects, artists and designers across the years. Also while developing disciplines such as ready-to-wear, shoes, accessories, watches, jewelry and stationery. These carefully created products are testament to the company’s commitment to fine craftsmanship.
The success of the Louis Vuitton label is based on grand French style, which recognizes the beauty of an object in its function and mobility. Louis Vuitton has brought unique designs to the world, combining innovation with style, always aiming for the finest quality.
The commercial policy is based on exclusivity, especially to combat against the rising attempts at falsification. For this reason, the fashion house’s products can only be acquired in their single brand stores or online at their official website www.louisvuitton.com. The brand’s attention isn’t limited just to the fashion system: interested in new trends, Louis Vuitton runs a cultural space at 101 Champs Élysées where young artists are left to propose and promote their art.
In 2010 Louis Vuitton published the book 100 Malles de Légende, a work that traces the story of the maison through a photographic support of more than 800 shots.
In February 2011, the first app of Louis Vuitton was launched, following the collaboration of the brand with Apple. “Look at the world through the eyes of Louis Vuitton”, the brand’s motto that they presented to refined travelers from every corner of the world. Vuitton’s success was unstoppable. Also, their campaign, “City Guide,” the line of luxury travel guides, updated a 2011 edition with new and unexpected cities like Porto Cervo, Beirut, Courchevel, Gstaad, Oxford, Palma de Mallorca and Thessaloniki.
2014 is another turning point, when Marc Jacobs, the creative director of the maison, is replaced by Nicolas Ghesquière, the French fashion designer discovered in 1997 by Balenciaga. The brand’s attention is not only directed at the fashion system: the interest in new trends has led the brand to open a cultural space on the Champs Élysées, where young artists have the opportunity to propose and promote their art.
Louis Vuitton, in 2016 has an estimated $ 20 billion value, and is at number 19 of Forbes’ list of the 100 most prestigious brands in the world.
Today, the Maison remains faithful to the spirit of its founder, Louis Vuitton, who invented a genuine “Art of Travel” through luggage, bags and accessories which were as creative as they were elegant and practical. Since then, audacity has shaped the story of Louis Vuitton.
Currently, Nicolas Ghesquière remains the Creative Director of Women’s Collections. Also, Kim Jones remains the Creative Director of Men’s Collections.