It is hard to avoid the reference of ‘started from the bottom’ when talking about Christian Louboutin and his shoes. After all, the Parisian shoe designer literally built a massive luxury empire with a pair of red bottom stilettos. While that statement is accurate, it is also somewhat reductive of his work. Sure, the red-painted soles of his shoes have become a cultural icon and the list of celebrities who love them runs long, but his shoes are more than the colour of their soles. What sets his soles apart is Louboutin’s ability to weave his whimsical, fun and over-the-top personality into his designs.
Which brings us to his spring/summer 2020 presentation held at Musée des Arts Forains in Paris, where he threw a circus-themed party to celebrate the launch of his latest men’s collection. Now by this point, you would expect the collection to be inspired by the circus; after all the privately owned museum houses curiosities collected from funfairs and circuses. But for Louboutin, the circus means much more than human oddities, fire breathing and lion taming; it is the pinnacle of showmanship and spectacles.
Instead of a verbatim translation of the circus theme, Louboutin instead took inspiration from the stars who performed at the circus, calling the spring/summer 2020 collection the Loubi Constellation.
On the sneaker front, updates were added to the Spike sock sneaker and Red Runner, but the star on the casual end of the spectrum is Happy Rui. This new silhouette takes inspiration from the iconic styles of tennis sneakers from the 1970s and is given a twist with a new toecap construction and a raised outsole.
On the formal end, Louboutin shows his whimsical side by melding the aesthetics of the clown shoe with the classic black derby shoe. The result, called Derbynose, features an exaggerated toecap on a classic derby. While the inspiration might be comical, the result is anything but; it lends a nice new energy to a classic. One other silhouette that stands out is a metallic sequins loafer that features hand-painted elements on it.
Before we dive into the other elements of the collection, it’s time for a history lesson; an insight into the way Louboutin views colours. When starting his own label, he struggled with translating the same dynamism of his 2D sketches into 3D prototypes; that was when he got the inspiration to paint the soles of his shoe red. Red is more than just the Pantone number it was assigned; it represents the spectrum of emotions that he wanted to translate onto the shoe.
Similarly, when he conceived the Nude collection, he saw it as a concept of blurring the line between the foot and the shoe, rather than a shade. Making its debut for the men’s universe, it sees classics like the Louis Junior sneaker, Montezupik moccasin, Nanou espadrille and Pool Stud slide, in eight shades of nudes. But the highlight is the inclusion of the Loubilab pouch, a crossbody bag with a built-in wireless charger. The constellation theme is also translated into other accessories with a new 3M reflective fabric that turns iridescent when it comes in contact with a bright light.
Ernest Hemmingway once said that “the circus is the only fun you can buy that is good for you”. We counter that—with the decline of the actual circus, this Louboutin collection is a great alternative.