How Christian Louboutin is changing fashion with a basic shoe

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How Christian Louboutin is changing fashion with a basic shoe

Christian Louboutin is helping to change the fashion industry with a fairly un-fashionable item: the “nude” shoe. Not that the buff-colored footwear is un-stylish, it’s very much in vogue.

But the nude shoe is a staple, a classic item like a trench coat or black blazer that is always on trend and worn out of practicality — they make your legs look days long and compliment any outfit.

For many years, nude shoes were only available for white women. They came in shades of peach and cream, and their leg-extending qualities only worked for women whose skin tones were peach and cream. In 2013, Louboutin was one of the first, and likely most public, of the big brands to address that issue and create a line of heels that matched a variety of skin tones.

The brand announced Wednesday that it is expanding the Nudes collection to include the Solasofia flats and two more shades, making a total of seven. Though there is a lot of excitement around the flats (yay comfy feet!), the fact that the luxury brand is continuing to expand its product line to reach a greater number and variety of customers is the real win.

The drumbeat for the fashion industry — especially the high-end side — to be more inclusive has been pounding for decades to varying degrees of success. While designers such as Zac Posen made public statements during fashion week in February, carrying bags saying “Black Models Matter,” design houses such as Balenciaga and ‘It’ French brand Vetements had no models of color on their runways.

While inclusion of all types of models in luxury brand ad campaigns is important, making a wardrobe staple like the nude shoe available to all women is a real democratizer.

“The nude collection is dedicated to people who want to have great legs, to have a great silhouette. Not necessarily to emphasize the shoe,” Louboutin said in an email exchange. “If you look at the shoe, it looks good, if you don’t look at the shoe, if you don’t see the details, it’s all about the legs; it’s all about the person. It’s great for when you are just thinking of yourself.”

He is passionate about expanding the variety of colors his team says. And his customers respond to that kind of excitement and personal treatment.

Just ask Bergdorf Goodman head honcho Joshua Schulman. He confirmed that there are plenty of women who are more than willing to part with $595 for a shoe and designer who is thinking about them. In fact, Schulman says Bergdorf had a tremendous response to an email they sent customers featuring fashion editors of different ethnicities wearing their perfect shade of nude.

Such a tremendous response that there’s already a waiting list (!).

“Leave it to Christian Louboutin to recognize that nude needs to come in a variety of shades,” Schulman said.

So if the begging, pleading and public shaming hasn’t worked to diversify the industry, maybe market power will be the answer.

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