"Visiting Mada'in Saleh in Saudi gives you the feeling of being on the roof of the world" – Christian Louboutin
Gems of Arabia
I t is with tremendous pleasure and honour that I present this interview, with a very dear and genuine friend, a mentor who I have tremendous admiration for and a shoe master, Christian Louboutin, who is pictured above during his travels across the Middle East on yet another historic rooftop. Now, in this interview we highlight the treasured Mada'in Saleh in Saudi Arabia, one of the world's most beautiful archeological sites. Here Louboutin also describes his point of view on heritage and cultural adaptation.
What changes do you see in Saudi Arabia compared to when you first visited the country many years ago? You mentioned then that the market was not yet ready. What made you take the next step and open a boutique in Jeddah and Riyadh?
Markets have developed much quicker in the last 10 years due to the Internet. General information, including fashion of course, is much more fluid in most countries including Saudi Arabia. Saudi's are very aware of trends and style and have their own opinion of what they want.
I remember when you first came to Saudi you visited Mada'in Saleh. Tell us about the experience...
Before visiting Mada'in Saleh, I'd never experienced the feeling of being on the roof of the world. Mada'in Saleh is on a plateau and the feeling of being above land is an extraordinary feeling. It is really incredible.
Did it surprise you to learn that we have historical sites like Mada'in Saleh in KSA?
No I was not surprised. I also didn't visit Mada'in Saleh by accident. I knew about its existence and that it was amongst the world's most beautiful archaeological sites — the Middle East is full of them. For a long time, I had seen items at the Louvre from Mada'in Saleh, which made me interested to visit. Exhibitions showing treasuries of the world are key to the development of tourism and the development of people's minds and imaginations.
Does the Louboutin Middle Eastern customer want something different in a shoe or makeup, compared to those in the West?
When it comes to men, they are very specific about the height of their shoe, simply because they don't change the height of their kandora. That would be the biggest difference.
Saudi women are not different from those women in the West except when it comes to the quality and beauty of their makeup and the strength that is shown is their eyes, which is always present.
You recently launched your first perfume collection and a full eye make-up range but have you ever thought of creating an oud-inspired perfume?
No, I have not thought about it. Thank you my dear friend Hatem, for giving me a great idea!
We also look forward to seeing the shoe collections in Saudi. Is there any hope of having the men's shoes stocked in Jeddah or Riyadh in the near future?
Yes, of course. We will have the men's shoes in Saudi Arabia starting with the SS18 season.
You are one of the only international designers who have taken the time to adapt to our culture and design a signature studded Madas shoe. How did the inspiration come to you?
I have a Saudi friend who gave me a beautiful pair of these slippers 15 years ago. Ever since then I have always wanted to do my own version.
How important is regional adaptation for you?
It's quite natural for me to behave differently depending on whom I am speaking to or dealing with. You do it when you speak to people, when you dress up for a function, in certain countries. It's very normal to be different depending on where you are or who you are with. It's a normal attitude.
What is style to you?
Style is a position in life that you may not want to endorse but life would be quite miserable without it.
Less is more or more is more?
Less is less.