Exhibition Review: Christian Louboutin @ The Design Museum

By Zoe Craig Last edited 74 months ago
Exhibition Review: Christian Louboutin @ The Design Museum
louboutin_entree.jpg
Louboutins hang in hoops in the stairwell of the Design Museum
Louboutins hang in hoops in the stairwell of the Design Museum
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Shadow Theatre is the one, less excessive area of the show
Shadow Theatre is the one, less excessive area of the show
That's shoes on show on a mirrored Helter Skelter
That's shoes on show on a mirrored Helter Skelter
This one's called Kryptonite
This one's called Kryptonite
Shoes swinging from a fairground carousel
Shoes swinging from a fairground carousel
These are part of the display of bespoke footwear
These are part of the display of bespoke footwear
Part of the cobbler's kit in the recreation of Mr Louboutin's Paris atelier
Part of the cobbler's kit in the recreation of Mr Louboutin's Paris atelier
Inside the Fetish section, it's all black and a bit weird. These are called "Siamoise"
Inside the Fetish section, it's all black and a bit weird. These are called "Siamoise"
"Mount Street", part of the display on the big, red stage
"Mount Street", part of the display on the big, red stage
A sparkly, slightly more wearable number
A sparkly, slightly more wearable number

Regular visitors to the white, boxy Design Museum in Shad Thames will find it transformed for its latest exhibition. A retrospective of the Parisian shoe designer, Christian Louboutin, sees the normally sparse space revamped, with an emphasis on the vamp.

From the arched entrance with a neon-lit "Entree" sign, to black walls and curtains, red velvet sofas, and mirrors, mirrors and more mirrors (all lit with those back-stage bulbs), this is design as theatre. In many ways, this exhibition feels more like one of the V&A's fashion shows than something at the Design Museum.

"Every woman wants to be a showgirl," asserts Louboutin, and this showgirl aesthetic permeates the whole exhibition. Even Dita Von Teese gets a look-in, looped in hologram form on a large screen above a bright red (of course) stage, transforming into a glittery stiletto and back again over a sexy soundtrack.

Each section opens up different aspects of Louboutin's career: his teenage inspirations (he grew up with three sisters); his internship at the Folies Bergère where he drew shoes for the dancers in his breaks; his work as a landscape gardener; his bespoke, made-to-measure work. After the heavy pummelling of so many painful looking shoes, so much black and red, and so many bulbs, there's a brief respite in a recreation of Mr Louboutin's Paris atelier, charmingly, creatively disorganised, with weird and wonderful objects from his workroom on loan. Here there's a nod to the construction process, a reminder that this guy's a cobbler as well as a showman. Then, in a curtained off section, you can sneak into a dark, black display of Louboutin's 2007 Fetish collection, all preserved under bell jars, with accompanying photography by David Lynch.

Ever wondered how many different ways can you show off a pair of shoes? You'll get an idea from this show. They're back-lit, side-lit, reflected on mirrors, standing in mirrors; they're in glass jars, on plinths, on swings; solitary, in pairs, in threes; upside down, hanging, reclining, thrust forward on blocks… it's like being in the world's weirdest shoe shop, where everyone's looking, but no one dares try anything on.

There's pom-poms, sparkles, glitter, feathers, flowers, spikes, frills; there's something quite mesmerising about the 200-plus shoes on display. Indeed, so much of it is so over-the-top (a mirrored helter-skelter, anyone?), that the most pleasing section is a pared back display called "Shadow Theatre" where you can finally look at the shape of a singular, beautifully made shoe, with an exquisitely proportioned heel. Just don't ask this Londonista to walk in them.

Christian Louboutin runs at the Design Museum, Shad Thames, Bermondsey, London, SE1 until 9 July. Tickets cost between £9-£11. Visit designmuseum.org/christian-louboutin to find out more.

Last Updated 01 May 2012