Curator's Corner, 8/10/2014
Color Connection #26

Couture Monday: We're off to Loubiville!

Louboutin-promoHuzzah!  The designer behind the famous red-soled shoes has launched a nail polish line.  Back in 1992 Christian Louboutin was hard at work creating high heels when he thought his current designs lacked a certain something.  He took a bottle of red nail polish from an assistant, painted the sole, and from then on, the fashion world was never the same.

As a big Louboutin fan myself I was most excited to get my paws on this, especially since I adored the bottle.  Any accessory that can double as a weapon is good in my book.  I thought I'd dig out one of my two pairs of Louboutins for fun, and of course to compare the nail polish color to the shoe sole.  You may remember I did the same experiment way back in 2008, when I compared Lancôme's Piha set to a black pair of "Very Prive" pumps.  So let's take a look, shall we?

First, the bottle.  The smoky ombré bottle has sixteen facets in all, each one polished with a hand-held flame.  The outer box (which I neglected to take pictures of) is also made by hand.  According to an article in Women's Wear Daily (WWD), each one takes 22 weeks to make.  Says Louboutin, "I always loved architecture and architectural elements, so when it came to this bottle, a lot of things came in mind...first of all, there was an importance on transparency. It was important to me that it seemed to float. The ultimate goal of the nail color was to evoke a shiny lacquer imprisoned in a piece of faceted crystal."  The cap takes its design cue from the Ballerina Ultima shoe Louboutin created in 2007 as part of a collaboration with filmmaker David Lynch.  While I personally found the wand to be difficult to maneuver, apparently it's bottom-weighted to make for an easier application. 




 I love these shoes but hardly ever wear them.  They are awesome but not all that practical.



God help us all, I tried to take some "artsy" close-up pictures.  They are not near what I wanted, given my lackluster photography skills, but I tried. I was infinitely fascinated by combining the luxury of leopard print rendered in sumptuous pony hair with the shiny nail polish bottle.  While I failed to adequately capture the beautiful textures of each, these may give you some idea of what I was trying to accomplish.






Is the polish really a match for the sole?  I think so!  (You can also check out swatches at Café Makeup.)  Louboutin notes that he while he wanted the color to be a good match, it was more important to him that the polish be flattering on every skintone.  "I’ve been traveling the world since I was a teenager and so, for that reason, I never consider just one ethnicity. When I’m thinking of the skin of a person, I don’t necessarily see a white skin. When we started to work on the colors, [it was a question of] why would you have just one person try? You have to see it on different skin." (source)


Rouge Louboutin had a very long lead time.  We first heard rumblings about an official Louboutin beauty line in 2012, but even prior to that there were manicures and colors inspired by the designer's shoes.  In early 2007 nail artist Zoe Pocock, working out of the Charles Worthington salon in the UK, debuted the Louboutin manicure in which the undersides of nails were painted red to mimic the soles of the shoes.

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Later that year China Glaze released a shade called Lubu Heels, a black packed with dark red glitter.

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In 2008 the craze for Louboutin-inspired nails was still going strong with the release of the aforementioned (and highly exclusive) Lancôme Piha set, consisting of a black sparkly gloss and red lipstick.


The fad seemed to die down for a while until 2012, when singer Adele sported a silver variation of the Louboutin manicure to match her silver Louboutin heels at the Grammy Awards.

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While the idea of transferring Louboutin's shoe designs to nails isn't new, what makes the official Louboutin polish novel is the obvious lead he took in creating it.  The wealth of information surrounding the development of the collection and photos like the ones below show that he was truly invested in this endeavor, and that he doesn't see it as merely another source of revenue. “The idea is definitely not to put my name on a new product,” he says in the WWD article.



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I think the quote shown below really sums up the beauty line nicely:  "The red sole was born from red nail polish. I am giving back to nails what the shoe took from the nails many years ago."

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Of course, the launch for the nail polish line was nothing short of dazzling.  Louboutin reconnected with David Lynch, who produced a short film in honor of the collection's release.


At Saks 5th Avenue in New York City, the mythical place known as "Loubiville" took over all the window displays.  I was struck by how elaborate they were.  Incidentally, the nail polish is currently being sold alongside the shoes rather than in the beauty department.  The fantastical cityscape was designed by architect Tarek Shamma and will make the leap from an all-white palette to a more colorful one as new products are introduced.






This arch blew me away - if you look closely you can see high heels forming the pattern.

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Amidst all the fanfare there has been an undercurrent of criticism.  How much is too much to pay for nail polish?  It seems a lot of consumers, beauty bloggers among them, find a $50 bottle of polish to be outrageous.  But I'd like to point out that you're not paying just for nail polish.  You're paying for both a color and a beautifully crafted bottle that capture the essence of an iconic fashion designer, a collectible meant to be enjoyed by applying but also displayed on one's vanity.   If you're into collecting things like this, $50 isn't necessarily unreasonable.  "Entering beauty, for me, was almost like entering the religion of beauty," Louboutin told WWD.  "If you’re talking beauty, it needs to be beautiful, because we are surrounded by tons of objects now, in every civilization, and there are so many ugly objects. You know, I just want the object to always be present because this is here, this is in your bag, this is in your bathroom. Too many objects are ugly, and I think that I do not want to add in that direction. There is a culture of cynicism, I think, of a certain cynicism with ugliness. That’s really a thing I do not want to participate in."  It really boils down to whether you like the bottle as much as the polish - whether you see it as a beautiful object as Louboutin does.  In that case, I think a splurge is in order.  Additionally, as All Lacquered Up author Michelle Mismas notes, there have been polishes costing $250 and $500 due to the use of real gold and other precious metals in the polish formulas.  There's even the famous black diamond-laced Azature polish which costs $250,000. Personally I'd never pay those amounts since I don't very much care about fancy ingredients, but $50 for a pretty trinket by a luxury designer whose work I greatly admire seems like a decent price.  If you just want a red polish with no frills, then yes, $50 is absurd as there are quality polishes out there at a much lower price point.

So what's next?  As of August 31st, the other colors in the Louboutin collection will be on sale.  There is the Pop group, more "fun" colors with a silver cap that are each named after one of the designer's existing shoe styles.


The Nude group features rose gold caps and shades for a variety of skintones.  Again, Louboutin wanted to ensure there would be a flattering nude shade for all.  "Nude is supposedly something which is going to fade into your own skin, so it just means the color of your, if you say color of your skin, you have to consider a lot of skin [tones]."


The Noir group will have dark gunmetal caps and include rich, vampy, jewel-toned shades.

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There will also be a capsule collection of footwear featuring manicure prints.



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Additionally, according to the WWD article, more products will be rolling out within the next 2 years.  I'm keeping my eyes peeled for lipstick.

So what do you think?  Are you a Louboutin fan? 

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