Creating has always been an absolute necessity for Christian Louboutin. Since his youth, sketching and manifesting visions into something tangible has been a passion of his—and ultimately led him to become the world’s most prominent shoe designer.
Even during a pandemic—whose entrapments can mean a stifling of creativity for some—Louboutin has redirected his work into a whole new arena: fragrance. The designer, who achieved cult status in the beauty category after launching a line of much-coveted nail polishes, has created not one, but seven exotic fragrances. He’s calling the collection Loubiworld, and each scent draws from his most treasured locales across the globe. An avid traveler, Louboutin and his partner Louis Benech maintain several homes in Egypt, Syria, Portugal, and Paris. Each of these places played a key role in inspiring his exotic fragrance line, which releases this month. Below, Louboutin waxes poetic on his latest inspirations, the scents he loved growing up, and his own personal fragrance preferences (there are many).
Let’s talk about inspiration. Do you have an all-time fashion or beauty muse?
Nefertiti. It’s one of the most beautiful busts in the world, and it truly speaks of the queen to me. What I also like about her is that we can clearly see that beauty, already in pharaonic times, is something to which we paid a lot of attention: the lips were drawn, and the eyebrows completely painted. What this bust tells us is that five thousand years ago, sophistication was already very present among the Egyptians.
Was there a woman’s fragrance growing up that you loved? Or was there a special fragrance that you smelled in your youth that you hold particularly dear?
It’s funny, because my early memories are not linked at all with perfumes. The scents of nature are what marked my childhood: gardens, the smell just after it rains, leaves in the hot sun…that’s probably why so many of the fragrance notes in the Loubiworld collection are based in nature, because that’s what draws me in: like the rose and blackcurrant in Loubifunk, the bouquet of jasmine in Loubikiss, and the cedar and suede in Loubiraj.
Egypt has been a special place for you for a long time. What flowers or essences native to Egypt did you use, if any, for these fragrances? Was Loubicroc inspired by Egypt?
Egypt always had a very special place for me, because of my innate connection with its culture, its people, its history and its architecture. More than flowers, Egypt inspires me through its light, the sunset on the desert, the colors of the night sky. Loubicroc is not a direct interpretation of this place, it’s like the frontier between real and imaginary. It’s what I think of when I’m dreaming. When I thought about Loubicroc, I think of sacred dancers and goddesses in pharaonic temples, women wearing a peplos like in the film Cleopatra.
In addition to Egypt, you have a home in Aleppo, Syria. Do women wear fragrance differently in the Middle East versus, let’s say, Paris? For instance, do they wear one scent during the day and one scent at night and in Paris, they wear one fragrance throughout the day?
Most Arab women love being a woman, even if it’s not easy every day. They have a classic sense of femininity; they look after their skin, their hair, their nails. They polish themselves, and even better, they cherish themselves. Perhaps more than anywhere in the world. When it comes to fragrance, they have a very specific approach, partly due to the climate they live in, which is very, very warm. They would go more easily to fragrances in oil, which merge with the skin in the heat. Perfume is an art in the Middle East, an historical tradition of layering different smells to obtain a unique silage.
Your residences are spread all around the world. Where do you feel most at home?
Paris for sure. I used to be a very frequent traveler, for professional reasons, obviously, but also because of my love for other cultures, discovering new people, civilizations, and languages. There is only one place I miss after a few weeks away: it’s Paris, where I’ve my family, my friends, my studio.
If you could think of one scent that describes the city of Paris to you, what would it be?
It would probably be the scent of the glue. My father was a cabinet maker, creating miniatures and very detailed objects made of wood. That’s something I found years later while opening my sur-mesure atelier. For me, it’s a madeleine de Proust.
What scent do you wear?
I used to wear colognes, until I took the chance of the Loubiworld collection to imagine fragrances very dear to me. What’s wonderful is that there are seven of them, so I can change according to my mood, the season, what I’m doing that day.
Do you have a separate scent for mornings and evenings?
More than a specific moment in the day, I change fragrances following my mood or the people I’ll meet with. Sometimes I need a carapace, sometimes I need something to be noticed.
How many sprays of perfume is just too much?
It’s never too much as long as you are comfortable with it.
How long did it take to formulate the perfumes? And how is it, creatively speaking, different than designing shoes?
I couldn’t tell exactly how long it took. I really wanted the fragrances to represent the dream worlds in my imagination. Each one began with a specific inspiration from that world: an image, a memory, a feeling that was calling out to me to be expressed. I began the creative process with the perfumers who quickly understood my thoughts and we worked together until the fragrance in the bottle matched my experience of the world in my imagination.
As for how creating fragrance is different than designing shoes, besides the obvious differences, there are actually many similarities, beginning with the passion and the attention to detail I put into it. I create collections for people to feel beautiful or handsome, confident, empowered. And of course, my fragrances and fashion are similar in that they are both born from inspirations in my mind, my imagination.
In your career, which collaborations did you love the most?
There are so many. For me, collaborations are about sharing dreams and passion. It’s about spending time with people you truly admire, sharing ideas, visions—and bring all of this to another level thanks to togetherness.
Where is your favorite place for summer and why? What scents do you associate with summer?
Portugal, definitely. Egypt and Brazil are in my top three as well, but it’s definitely too warm in summer. The summer makes me think of flowers and gardens, the warm and damp smell just after a cooling rain. Loubifunk is a wonderful fit for summer: a floral rose that is about dancing and celebrating the joy of living. Rose, blackcurrant and patchouli…perfect for warm weather.
Do you feel at home at sea as well? Do you feel the sea has a fragrance?
I feel very close to the sea. First, because I’m from Brittany in France, where people have a long tradition of crossing the oceans to discover new cultures and territories. That’s something they share with Portuguese—which could explain why I feel so good in Portugal. Here, sea is about salt, sunburned skins, and fresh scents like citrus and rosemary.