Photograph from Personal Collection
During my trip to London in June, I was able to visit the Christian Louboutin retrospective at the Design Museum. I was very excited to see this exhibition as I love those famous shoes with the red soles! And happily enough, the exhibition did not disappoint.
Photograph courtesy of Paper Blog
To enter the exhibition, I went up a flight of stairs which featured a central mobile featuring various shoes designed by Louboutin. This was an enchanting and creative use of the entrance space before the visitor came to the actual exhibition.
Photograph from Personal Collection
After going through two rooms, one which introduced the exhibition and displayed a wall of shoe molds, and another which featured shadowed silhouettes of stilettos, I entered the main exhibition space. Here are a few pictures of the exhibition space:
Above photographs courtesy of The Style Examiner
Throughout the exhibition, wall text featured quotes by Louboutin discussing his inspiration. Each section corresponded with a source of inspiration: travel, music, movie stars, architecture, garden design, and art. The exhibition was well planned out and rather easy to follow. While it was definitely congested due to the popularity of the show, I found I was able to spend the time I wanted in each gallery space.
I was caught somewhat off guard (in a good way!) by the room that focused on fetishism and the role it plays in Louboutin’s creative process. This room, which was curtained off from the rest of the exhibition, featured items from the Christian Louboutin’s collaboration with photographer David Lynch. The exhibition “Fetish” was on display at the Galerie du Passage in Paris in 2007. For this collaboration, Louboutin created shoe-like objects that were never intended to be worn.
Photograph courtesy of S MAGAZINE blog
The exhibition also featured a reconstruction of Louboutin’s workspace. This is where the exhibition got a bit congested, as there were two pieces of wall text (one centering on The Atelier and the other on the Construction of a Shoe) right upon exiting the fetishism room. However, once I was able to read each wall text and move on, I was happy to see the reconstructed workspace. The wall text was extremely insightful, and provided details on Louboutin’s creative process as well as technical work.
Following the reconstructed workspace was a video gallery, which featured a video entitled “Loubi’s Angels” and another video that I did not catch the name of. The second video featured Louboutin dancing along with two female dancers, all outfitted in Christian Louboutin shoes. This final video was truly infectious and made me wish I knew Louboutin personally. He comes off as a very cheerful, thankful, and appreciative person.
“The Life and Times of Christian Louboutin” featured a timeline of Louboutin’s life. Louboutin’s life was explained through the use of photographs, stories, and of course, shoes. In the center of this room was a life-size mannequin inside a Faberge-style egg, wearing Christian Louboutin shoes. The charming and endearing nature of the exhibition continued into this room.
After leaving “The Life and Times of Christian Louboutin,” the exhibition opened back into the larger room, which featured mirrored displays of shoes. The mirrored displays were an ingenious inclusion, as the famous red soles were always on display.
Photograph courtesy of The Style Examiner
One of the most fascinating aspects of the exhibition was the illusionary video of Dita von Teese and Christian Louboutin shoes displayed at the end of a runway-like display of shoes. The technology for this display comes from ‘Pepper’s Ghost’ - an illusionary technique used in Victorian times and named after John Henry Pepper. As the lights dim, the music began, and the excitement built, the show began and the entire audience became enthralled.
Photograph courtesy of The Kensington Doll
As a fashion historian I am so glad I was able to see this exhibition. I was delighted, enchanted, and academically inspired by what I saw. I now have a new found appreciation for Christian Louboutin and his craft. While I have been coveting a pair of Louboutin’s for awhile, it’s not quite time to make the financial plunge yet! Maybe I’ll treat myself to the exhibition catalogue, which has a hefty price of nearly $100!