It was a photo of Princess Diana dressed perfectly in a red suit jacket, purple skirt, and string of pearls during a 1992 visit to the Taj Mahal that sparked Christian Louboutin’s creativity that same year. The footwear designer noticed her pose sitting on a bench in front of the mausoleum in Agra, India—perfectly ladylike with her knees tightly next to one another and the forlorn face she made as she looked down at her feet. Louboutin was a big fan of the princess, and he could sense that there was something wrong. He could tell the differences in her emotions from constantly seeing her photos in the media. “Even if you don’t want to, [you are] expressing your states of mind,” he said. That particular photo inspired him to send her a message through a pair of black flats with the word letters L and O scrawled across the right foot and V and E along the left in red patent leather. The shoes and the drawing on which he originally sketched them are on display in L’Exhibition[nist], the Louboutin retrospective at Palais de la Porte Dorée in Paris through July 26, but the exhibition is currently closed under further notice due to the spread of Covid-19. 

“You could see she was looking at the floor and feeling so desperate, bored, and sad or something, and I thought if there was a message on her feet saying, hi, hello, like a little mouse saying something to her, that maybe she would have a smile,” recalled Louboutin, who rereleased the shoe in a 2018 Love-themed capsule collection. “So I just did a drawing of joined legs, her attitude, looking at that, and I thought, If only there was love there, maybe she would be happier. So I just wrote love and I put it just as the two feet together because she was always posing like that.”

Louboutin empathized with Princess Diana’s circumstances. “I could understand that she got trapped into a thing, and I could understand that a lot of people saying, She’s not in her role, she doesn’t understand,” he said. “I’m always in favor of women anyway. You get married young, a virgin, and then suddenly you’re trapped into a thing.” 

The shoe designer loves a survival story. “I can understand that people want to change their lives, that point of view, and even if it’s bad, looks bad to according to her, it’s an attitude of a survivor,” said the designer. “I could feel in her, a survivor attitude, with a lot of posing, trying to be correct, and trying to survive. With all of the people I really have been admiring there is this survival attitude,” said Louboutin. I like survival, especially for women. Tina Turner is a person that I loved since I was a kid and she has this survival attitude. Cher is another survivor. I like this powerful skill in women especially.”

The exhibition features a number of impressive shoes, including a pair of purple, black, and gold studded hightops made in collaboration with Kobe Bryant for his 2016 retirement. His widow, Vanessa Bryant, was a big client of Louboutin, who was a close family friend. There are also pairs of shoes inspired by artists, like Julio Le Parc, Piet Mondrian, and Andy Warhol, whose flowers influenced the iconic Pensée, which were also the first pair of shoes Louboutin painted with a red bottom. The completely unwearable Siamese shoes consists of two stilettos attached at the heel that were immortalized in a series of moody photographs by David Lynch in the late aughts. There’s also his recent couture collection made in collaboration with Bhutanese artisans.

Sadly, Princess Diana didn’t wear the Love shoes before her tragic death in Paris in 1997, but maybe Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle will wear a pair in tribute to their late mother in law.



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