French footwear designer Christian Louboutin visited Mumbai last week to celebrate fashion in films. HT Café talks to the famous designer about his design philosophy and his favourite films. Christian revealed that he loves Bollywood music and he even hummed a few of his favourite Hindi songs.
Do Bollywood songs inspire you while designing a collection?
Music is never in the background. When I am designing, if I turn the music on, it’s going to put me in a specific mood. So, sometimes I do not listen to music. If I do, it’s not just random sounds. I have two houses; one is by the sea and the other is farther away. I always go to the one that is farther from the sea, because even the sound of the waves correlates [with my mood].
Watch: Christian Louboutin loves Bollywood. Hear him sing Laila O Laila!
For example, the kind of music that I always come back to for every single collection is disco. It’s always a disco moment when I am designing a collection. Knowing that I am drawing for two weeks in a row, there is always a moment when I need such music. Disco does not necessarily mean French disco or American disco; Indian disco works perfectly well, too. I remember one, ‘It’s the time to disco’ (Kal Ho Naa Ho; 2003). There is also a song with Shah Rukh Khan and Malaika Arora Khan on the train — ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ (Dil Se; 1998). There are always a few songs that I listen to; the one with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan (pauses to recollect the name of the song), ‘Kajra re’ (Bunty Aur Babli; 2005). These are my favourites. With Indian music, I can hum the melody. I don’t have to try to sing the lyrics.
Christian would give up a hundred red carpets to just see Deepika Padukone’s look in Bajirao Mastani.
Which Bollywood personality would you like to design shoes for?
I am pretty shy. I would be happiest designing for someone who can come up to me and say ‘I would love it if you could design [shoes for me]’. It is not about me. I would like to be chosen by people and not the other way round. It’s great when someone really wants you. I would rather be picked than try to pick someone.
What is it about fashion in Bollywood that entices you?
I make a big differentiation between well-dressed people when they walk on the red carpet, and well-dressed people when they are acting in a movie. I am really not interested in red carpets. That’s not my thing. When I think of an actress, I am thinking of her [character] in the movie. For instance, in Bajirao Mastani (2015), when you see Deepika Padukone dancing around with the banjo, this (the look) to me, is better than any red carpet. I would give up a hundred red carpets to just see that movie (Bajirao Mastani) again.
Christian Louboutin believes that the identity of Indian women is very strong.
They say people are judged by the shoes they wear. What is your take on this and what do you think about the fashion sensibilities of Indian women?
First of all, I don’t like to judge people. I would not judge people based on what they wear but on what they say. When I opened my first store in Delhi, though I am known for my high heels, people would come asking for flat shoes and little sandals. I thought it was interesting that even if you are known in India for specific things, people still want exactly what they are going to wear or what they are going to need. And that’s one thing about Indian women, they are actually quite confident, and they know what they need. It was flattering that Indian women would still consider me for not necessarily a thing that I am known for. This proves that the identity of Indian women is very strong and they know about it. It is a nice thing to see.
What tips would you suggest for men who want to buy a pair of shoes for their partners?
It is better to go for a smaller size because even if it doesn’t fit, a woman will not get offended as she will think that she has small feet. But, if you take a size 10, when she is a size 7, then she will not be happy. So, make sure you go for a smaller size. It’s like when you tell a woman she looks ten years younger she does not get offended. But buying her something for 10 years after could be more offensive.
Also, take something she would not buy for herself because that is what I do. I always buy things that a woman would use less. When a woman buys something for herself it is normally functional, so opt for something that is as dreamy and eccentric as possible.
Beyonce Knowles wore shoes designed by Christian Louboutin at the Super Bowl 2016.
You have designed for characters in movies. Do you find it challenging to design with a set format?
It is very exciting to have a brief for a movie or a person or a function. I use the term “emergency thing” when designing for specific things. For instance, I do an ankle strap for a stage performance. You can be the biggest actress but you can still be shy at a specific moment on stage. I have been working with a lot of dancers and artistes who perform on stage. For someone like Beyoncé, as she sings and dances too, I am not going to design something where she lifts her leg and it (shoe) falls off the stage. Therefore, challenges are a good thing.
If you had to change something about yourself, what would it be?
I have been very lucky, as I have had a journey which is almost 25-year long, but I still feel very young. However, often I thank people for helping me, and participating in this adventure. There is nothing that I would like to change.
How was your experience celebrating cinema at the film festival in Mumbai?
Mumbai is one of the most important capitals for movies. And, it’s always interesting to see several people, including students who are interested in cinema. No one has forgotten about Guru Dutt and Satyajit Ray, the czars of cinema. From classic Bengali films to super-vibrant movies in Bollywood, all of these, make India so versatile and interesting. And the film festival in Mumbai covered all these spectrums.