April 1, 2012

Tell Me About It, Stud: Christian Louboutin’s Latest NYC Outpost

Cooing “hello, lover,” at a particular ruffled stiletto in a New York shop window in the TV version of Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker rocket-propelled Christian Louboutin into the fashion stratosphere. That was in 2002. But it was back in 1991, in the 1st Arrondissement of Paris, that the shoe designer opened his first boutique, a self-styled interior that took aesthe­tic cues from its site, a 19th-century shopping arcade. Global locations followed, nearly all 60 of them by a New York architect, 212box principal Eric Clough. One of the latest, directly across the arcade from the original, is another debut, the decadent men’s concept Christian Louboutin Boutique Homme.

To outfit the 650-square-foot space, Clough set up a studio at Louboutin’s former office. “We usually meet once a month, for one store or another,” Clough says. But this was a chance to immerse himself. “You’re walking into Christian’s mind. There are treasures everywhere,” Clough marvels. “It was great feeding off that collection.” Yes, that is indeed how a taxidermic lemur wound up perched on a branch in the finished store.

Being so deliriously Louboutin, it leans heavily on hides-this is clearly no place for vegans. Clough took three different shades of green leather, precision-cut them, and glued them onto square polished stainless-steel armatures to create wall tile, his riff on Frank Lloyd Wright’s sculpted textile blocks for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Larger panels are wrapped in rosy-pink leather, some textured as a result of the assorted small objects implanted just under the skin. Display brackets mounted against the panels have skirts of pleated leather from a fashion manufacturer. In the back room, where the same pleats serve as heavily textured wall covering, an embroidered rug of?a tiger lies on heavy full-grain leather, seemingly patinated by masculine tobacco smoke before being roughly nailed to the subfloor.

Carpet in the women’s boutiques is as bright a red as the leather soles Louboutin’s high-heels are famous for. The scenario with men’s soles is a little different. For example, the high-tops can have white rubber soles embossed with branding. “If you step in the mud, you leave a little logo,” Clough says. So the translation into carpet is?less direct. The cut-pile corduroy in the front of the store has what he calls “more merlot to it,” and the border is an intricate mosaic of geometrics in red, white, and black hair-on hide.

Patterning infuses almost every inch of the store with complexity. A patchwork of pressed-tin panels, reclaimed from New England shops, lines the ceiling, as in some of the women’s boutiques. A few of the polished stainless-steel shelves have studded edges, Clough’s response to the heavy studs that are a signature of the shoes. “Your calves know when you’ve worn them all day,” he jokes. Displays in bronze-tinted clear acrylic were water-jet cut with a Moroccan arabesque that he compares, more prosa­ically, to?a “tire tread.” The rosy-pink leather wrapping several of those wall panels sports embroidery by the same needleworker who custom-embellishes the uppers of the shoes. (Let’s say you have a big scorpion tattoo. Louboutin will have it faithfully reproduced on your loafers.)

Furniture is a world tour, making stops in India for wall covering and Mexico for shoe-shine chairs. And an aerodynamic round table is figuratively out-of-this-world: It comes from the original set of Star Trek. If this is Planet Louboutin, please beam us down.

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