Born in Paris in 1964 as the youngest child of five sisters, Louboutin was drawn to footwear from an early age. <br />
<ul><li>Louboutin found his calling as a 17-year-old apprentice in the dressing rooms of Paris' famous cabaret, FoliesBergère.
"I would watch the girls going up and down the stairs with these very heavy headdresses on, and they never looked at their shoes," he says. "That's where I learned that shoes are all about posture and proportion.”
Always wanted to be a shoe designer, but never thought of it as a profession until he was given a book about shoe designer Roger Vivier.</li></ul>Early Inspiration<br />
Design<br />One of his earliest memories is seeing a sign prohibiting the wearing of stiletto heels in a Paris museum -- warning of potential damage to the wood floors. <br />"I wanted to defy that. I wanted to create something that broke rules and made women feel confident and empowered.”<br />The actual build of his shoes is architecturally inspired. He cites the gravity-defying buildings of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer as an influence. <br />
History<br /><ul><li>Louboutin quietly built his business during his career’s first decade.
Began career as a designer for Charles Jourdan in 1981
Msr. Louboutin opened his first flagship Paris store in 1992
Louboutin showed his shoes above Diane von Furstenberg’s studio on 12th Street (NYC), and she has since become a mentor.</li></li></ul><li>The Red Sole<br /><ul><li>More than a cunning marketing concept, the red sole was a happy accident.
While working on a prototype in his studio in 1992, Louboutin searched for a way to match the shoe to a colorful sketch.
Feeling that the sole of the shoe was too dark, he painted the bottom with a bottle of red nail polish.
"It didn't take me long to learn from my customers that the red soles were very popular with men," Louboutin says, laughing.</li></li></ul><li>The Simple Collection<br />Louboutin used to change his collections frequently, with little brand and design cohesion from one collection to the next.<br />Credits DVF with helping him develop his brand’s direction: “She gave me very important advice: <br />She told me I should always have classics.”<br /><ul><li>Classic round-toe stiletto
70 mm, 85 mm, 100 mm, 120 mm</li></li></ul><li>Every season is completely different for Louboutin, whose collections vary vastly. <br />The collection shoes accompany the Simple collection, which is available year-round.<br />
Building an Empire<br />It was with the 2004 addition of a second NYC store on Horatio St. that his U.S. business really took off.<br />Louboutin said the shop gave him greater exposure to a younger, hipper customer.<br />Began designing shoes for the catwalks of Chloé, Lanvin, McQueen, Viktor & Rolf, Jean Paul Gaultier, YSL and Roland Mouret.<br />
Celebrity Clientele<br />Oprah, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham, Blake Lively, Dita von Teese, Katie Holmes, the Kardashians and hundreds of other Hollywood stars among his loyal clientele.<br />Red-soled red carpet appearances increase promotion with little company effort.<br />Featured in Sex & The City Movie<br />
Though he doesn’t go out of his way to court the famous, Louboutin values his celebrity endorsers.<br /> “I take a lot of pride in the fact that with all the choices in the world, celebrities still choose my shoes,” he said. “Shoes are objects of desire. I’m not going to throw tons of shoes at someone so that they’ll wear them. [The desire] has to come from the person.”<br />
Sweet Success<br />Even in a year when high-end retail struggled to recover, Christian Louboutin was the force to be reckoned with. <br />His unique grasp of luxury consumers of all ages was never more obvious than in 2010, when he was honored with Footwear News Person of the Year.<br />While other designers were forced to cut staff and reduce their retail footprints, Louboutin expanded his global empire.<br />
2010<br /><ul><li>2010 marked an important year of transition, when the brand truly went global with store expansion and new distribution.
“The reality is that I now have a COO who is really organizing everything, and that definitely makes a difference. But at the end of the day, it’s because the shoes are selling.” –C.L.
In the last 11 months, Loubi opened 12 stores, including Beirut, Dallas, Dubai, Miami, Madrid and Tokyo. Only 20 existed prior to this year’s expansion.
The company saw double-digit growth, and retail sales exceeded $250 million for the year ending August 2010. </li></li></ul><li>Luxury Brand Status Index<br />Louboutin has topped The Luxury Institute's annual Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI) for five years. The LBSI survey is the only unbiased measure of the reputation of leading brands provided by direct insights from wealthy U.S. consumers. Sample households had average annual income of $271,000 and $2.4 million average net worth. <br />Top 2011 LBSI Scores:<br />Women’s Fashiono Hermes 7.72o Prada 7.70o Louis Vuitton 7.58<br />Women’s Shoeso Christian Louboutin 8.04o Valentino 7.98<br />
Approachable</li></li></ul><li>Discussion Questions<br />Do you feel that CL is a fad/trend that has caught on due to the media and/or media exposure? How can he incorporate his current success, into a prominent brand? <br />Heels have been around forever... How did CL create his competitive advantage? How can he maintain his competitive advantage?<br />What are new ways for CL to market his product and brand?<br />CL doesnt have any celebrity endorsements like NIke. How did/does he market his shoes and why did he become so successful? How could he stimulate underdeveloped markets and opportunities?<br />
Do you think CL could have achieved its present success without the unique but simple (red bottom) logo? What do you think of his red bottom logo?<br />“The success of CL was strictly fortuitous and had little to do with great decision making.” Evaluate this statement.<br />Do you think the high-end industry has limited potential? Or is it still a growth industry? Opinions and rationale, please.<br />Looking at CL today, do you think its expansion into handbags and men’s shoes were valuable expansion opportunities?<br />In what ways do you think CL customers are segmented? Which segments or niches would you consider to be CL’s prime targets? Which segments probably would not be?<br />Do you think CL will remain dominant in its niche despite it’s competitors? Why or why not?<br />
"When a woman buys a pair of shoes, she never looks at the shoe. She stands up and looks in the mirror, she looks at the ass, from the front, from the side, blah blah blah. If she likes herself, then she considers the shoe.” –Christian Louboutin<br />