From his ubiquitous signature red-soled stilettos, beauty products and bags to his collaborations with Walt Disney, contemporary artists and numerous fashion houses, the Christian Louboutin brand has transformed from a shoe atelier to a name synonymous with luxury, creativity, art and quality.
Even though Louboutin, the celebrated shoe couturier, appears to be taking over the world one step at a time, he is fastidious with his collaborations. “I am happier having a name that is recognised for the excellence of my work than one that is seen everywhere. I don’t wish that for me,” he shares.
Commercial reasons alone won’t make the cut. Louboutin makes it a requirement that his partners share the same respect for craftsmanship. His obsession with details has even seen him travel to the most exotic of locations in Bhutan and India, in pursuit of traditional and rare metiers d’art.
His latest collaboration is with Jaeger-LeCoultre, which is marking the 85th anniversary of its most celebrated icon, the Reverso. As the first celebrity designer invited to add to the watchmaker’s new Reverso Atelier (a bespoke service that allows customers the privilege of personalising their Reverso watches), Louboutin has unveiled seven dial executions and 10 strap designs that will be available for a year, alongside the brand’s other core designs.
How did the collaboration come about?
About two years ago, Jaeger-LeCoultre enquired about the possibility of working together on something that involved the use of red on their watch straps. I said it could be interesting but if it was just to add some red, then I am not the correct person for this job. Still, I told them I would think about it. Later, I decided that the first thing I would do would be exactly what I always do when I am working on something, be it a collaboration or even a new store opening — I would go there and then decide if a partnership made sense. I went to the manufacture at Le Sentier and discovered a laboratory where watchmakers and technicians were like creative scientists who were very focused on their tasks. There was almost something cartoony and Space Odyssey-like about it, which I loved.
What do both brands share in common?
We have a technical approach towards design. When you design, the smallest detail can affect a lot of things and that is absolutely obvious on a pair of shoes. For example, if I change the line of the cleavage in my design, I can turn a sexy shoe into something bulky. When it comes to watches, we are no longer talking about minute differences but micro ones. This was why it was important for me to visit their factory — I needed to see how they worked and if we shared a common language. This obsession with details is something that resonates with me.
What was the first thing that struck you about the Reverso’s design?
The Reverso is an art deco design, so I knew my approach had to combine decorative elements with classicism. I also knew I had to balance masculine and feminine accents. In my opinion, because square is something quite masculine, I wanted to add circles, which is a shape that I work closely with. My take was to round the rectangle and to add circles to this very structured design. You’ll see this on one of the strap designs.
Why did you choose to create a transparent strap?
I approached the watches as I would jewellery. By playing with transparency and doing away with everything but the case, the watch becomes a jewel attached to your wrist. It’s like a butterfly that has just landed on your wrist — you end up looking at nothing else. Other than this and the idea of rounding the rectangular shape of the Reverso, I also wanted to play with colours.
Why colours? Did something catch your attention?
I was inspired by oil slicks on the water. When you look at oil floating on the water off a harbour, you see this greenish blue water, which is very pretty, like a scarab beetle or rainbow, even though you know you wouldn’t want to swim in it. So I wondered how it would look if I dipped the watch in that sort of water. This visual also reminded me of the intersections within hard stones, such as amethysts. If you think about their shapes, it gives you an idea of what I wanted to achieve: Incorporate the element of roundness into the Reverso’s rectangular shape.
Your signature touch of red is what’s expected of you. Why was this missing from most of the watches?
I like to work in an unexpected way. When it is expected, anybody can do it, so why should I? I don’t want to do something in red and with spikes just because it’s in my DNA. That wouldn’t be exciting for me. Christian Louboutin is a brand with a DNA, but it is also about me. I need to be able to challenge myself as well. There was a wink of my red DNA in the watches, but it was not something I replicated in all the designs. That would be too easy.