French shoe designer steps into his own beauty line

08/27/2014 8:00 PM

08/27/2014 1:29 PM

Christian Louboutin doesn’t just want to paint the soles of your shoes red. He wants to paint your fingernails and, eventually, your lips, eyes and cheeks.

In August, the famed French footwear designer launches his beauty collection, which has been 2 1/2 years in the making.

He’s starting slowly, with a single nail polish shade: Rouge Louboutin, a rich red lacquer that’s just a click off the hue of his signature soles, to make sure it works with all skin tones, he says. Then, on Sept. 1, three new color families will be released – Nudes, Noirs and Pops – for a total of 31 shades, all of them named after shoe styles.

“I’ve always thought of beauty as an opportunity for women to be in charge of their own appearances,” he says over breakfast in his suite at the Chateau Marmont, his home-away-from-home in L.A.

Louboutin’s foray into the world of beauty seems predetermined, for it was a bottle of nail polish that gave his shoes their true magic.

He had just started designing shoes when, in 1992, that perfect shade of red changed his life. He was tinkering with a collection inspired by Pop art, including a Mary Jane pump with a bold flower detail outlined in black. Louboutin arrived at the factory to inspect the prototype, and the shoe looked different from his sketch. “There was a lot of black, the sole was black; it wasn’t working,” he says.

At that same moment, his assistant Sarah was polishing her nails, and Louboutin grabbed her red polish and painted it on the soles of the prototype.

The rest is history. His designs have spawned a global luxury brand of women’s and men’s shoes and accessories. The red soles became a signature, and then a trademark, which Louboutin has fought hard in court to protect.

His move into beauty began in 2012, when he signed a deal with New York-based Batallure Beauty, which has created beauty brands for Abercrombie & Fitch, Marchesa, Sephora and Splendid, among others.

“It should have taken a year and a half to develop the product. It took longer, but I love it,” he says.

“It’s 22 years since I started my company, and I never put my name on anything (else). I have been asked many times, from fashion to cars. I never wanted to do it if I wasn’t into it or it wasn’t legitimate.”

High design, high cost

Rouge Louboutin is packaged in an ombre-hued, faceted crystal cube inspired by a chandelier crystal, with a handle that tapers to a stiletto-sharp point. The handle is modeled after the designer’s highest heel, 8 inches, on his 2007 Ballerina Ultima fetish shoe.

The polish is being sold at Christian Louboutin boutiques and major department stores – in the shoe salon, not at the beauty counter. Color collections will be released seasonally, along with the shoes.

It’s a beauty product as accessory, and at $50 a bottle, it may be among the most expensive nail lacquers on the market.

“I couldn’t worry about that,” he says. “It needed to be done perfectly. There was no reason to add an ordinary product to the beauty category; there is enough of that.”

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