Louboutin hit on the idea for a custom service thanks to a couple of “happy accidents.” First, he was approached by a man whose small custom-made shoe studio in Paris was on the brink of bankruptcy because of a dearth of clients. The designer found the idea of helping to save the operation while using its artisanal savoir faire to create his own made-to-order business “trés sympathique.” Days later, a second man ambled into one of his Paris shops and offered to sell him a lamp. “He told me it was in an old photo studio right across the street from my office,” Louboutin says. “I went to see it. I didn’t like the lamp. But I loved the studio—it was perfect for a bespoke atelier.”
Soon the designer had rented the studio and spiffed up the ground-floor space with a pair of Egyptian columns and exotic doorways he sourced in Java and Cairo. He hired the owner and staff of the failing made-to-order business. And he then hung out his shingle.
“This is a world of standardization. To fulfill a woman’s precise desire—that is the ultimate luxury.”
“Made-to-measure is quite technical,” Louboutin says, explaining that every initial order begins with the time-consuming task of sculpting a cast to match each client’s foot. The procedure takes five weeks and costs $3,400. “Once we have the cast, the shoe can be made in a week,” he says. The casts are saved, but every time a customer orders a shoe in a new heel height, a new cast must be made. A shoe selected from Louboutin’s existing collection can be custom made, tweaked for color and materials, and will cost 25 percent more than the regular price. One designed entirely from scratch costs more.