“Good afternoon, Madame,” said a handsome doorman in a crisp white shirt as I stepped out of the taxi, ushering me towards the gold encrusted double doors on the building behind him.
Confused, I giggled and quickly responded, “Oh no, I think you have me mistaken, I’m looking for Christian Louboutin.” “Ah, I see. Just walk down towards Madison and it will be across the way, on the right,” he answered.
Turning to follow his directions, I literally skipped my way down the posh street, a bit overwhelmed by all the Longchamp bags and black leggings that filled the ample sidewalk.
Let’s be honest: Louboutin’s had been on my mind for years now as a result of a very famous photograph of the Olsen sisters walking the red carpet in a matching pair. A timeless and true iconic brand, it was only a matter of time before I considered my first.
I woke up that Saturday morning with only one plan: to visit the Madison Ave Christian Louboutin boutique and experience its shoe frenzy like a true New York City woman. And like any true New York City woman, I started the day off with a lovely brunch at Maison Harlem – sipping my coffee sparingly while contemplating the many places I would wear my new shoes.
A cab ride later, I arrived at the promised land.
Grasping another set of double doors, a tall gentleman in a well fitted black suit greeted me, extending his left arm in welcome.
What my eyes took in was what could only be described as “love at first sight”. The brightly lit room with wall to wall red carpet was flanked by shelves of curatorial perfection —each shoe neatly displayed for both lust and functionality.
Approaching a stylish young man behind the glossy counter to the left of the room, I made my petit request: “Hello, I’m looking for Alex.” “He’s in mens, right across on the other side,” he replied with a smile.
Truthfully, I was at the boutique on strict advise by the ultimate New York City man about town, Alex Ghinger, a connoisseur of all things glamorous and a selling supervisor at Christian Louboutin. We had met many, many years ago in Paris. At the time we were both young and passionate about that expat life, I could have never guessed that we would become the lifestyle soulmates that we are today.
A few months ago during a cocktail party at my home, Alex had insisted that one did not just go online and buy a pair of Louboutin’s. Before investing in such classic shoes, one had to take the time to visit the Louboutin boutique and get fitted, professionally.
There was, apparently, an art to finding the right pair of shoes.
I had absolutely no idea what he meant and initially wrote it off as a pre-requisite that I could skip since I had purchased many items blindly before. I had my eye on a gorgeous lace heel called the Pigalle Follis that I had spotted on a young lady at a party just weeks before.
I found Alex in the midst of conversation with a handsome man in a gorgeous coat and perfectly coiffed hair making decisions on his next purchase. Alex himself, looking exceptionally cool with the most perfect arms life has ever seen, gave me a sweet hug and quickly motioned me to begin “the tour.”
Here’s the deal – there are three things that will inevitably happen to you when you arrive at the Madison Ave location for a fitting:
1. You will be paired with a ridiculously attractive soul who looks as if they’ve just walked out of Parisian afterparty – you know, the kinds that include table dancing, models and the occasional bare chested bartender.
2. You will be given a personalized walking tour of the boutique and a knowledgeable and courteous employee will share with you pertinent information on all the collections, their unique features, craftsmanship and stylish benefits.
3. A tall and delicious glass of champagne will be served, and that is all you need to know.
As we strolled the boutique discussing my options and debating my heel height (I’m really fit for 100s though 120s would be an ultimate dream), I looked around and observed an organized chaos unlike any other. The Louboutin couches were filled with women and men of all ages, races and sizes happily trying on shoes, taking photos and sipping copious amounts of bubbly.
It was the party of the weekend, and I was front and center.
Directing me to a chair inside the men’s section of the boutique, Alex handed me my first pair to try on – the lace Pigalle that upon standing, I instantly felt like sex on a stick.
Marchin, another selling supervisor who migrated to New York from Toronto sheepishly giggled as I made my way to the mirror as carefully as possible, balancing my weight on each heel as to keep a full stride.
“They are sexy but I’m not sure I can spend 8 hours in them,” I quipped over my shoulder.
“Christian has this theory that fabulous shoes are like sex. Sex is great but it’s not necessarily comfortable. There are different positions, you sweat, it can be uncomfortable, but it’s also amazing. That’s how Christian feels about shoes – they can be the most exceptional things you ever wear, but they aren’t always meant to be the most comfortable,” he said.
I sipped my second glass of champagne and concluded that Marchin’s words made more sense than I liked to admit.
This was quickly becoming one of the loveliest moments of my life; what struck me most about the Madison Ave boutique was the level of exceptional customer service that each team member provided. Lead by the elegant and selective Peter (I’d like to think of him as the den mother), the Christian Louboutin staff on Manhattan’s Upper East Side made each and every person who entered their luxurious establishment feel like the most important person in the room.
And this feeling wasn’t just regulated to the customer service, but extended its greatness into the design of the shoes. Making one feel important – if not beautiful – was a top down approach that started with Christian himself.
Exhibit A: aAfter another round of bubbly and a second tour of the bag collection – my heart did stop when I happened to meet a distinctive blue tote called Paloma – Alex, Peter and I came across the curious Pigalle Follies again, this time in several shades of nude. What’s so special about this particular collection is that unlike other designers, Christian Louboutin simply understood that one nude color could not possibly match all the beautiful and diverse skin tones that we find around us, and in an unprecedented move, created the shoe in several shades of nude.
“Christian wants all women to feel beautiful and sexy in a nude shoe whatever their skin tone may be,” Alex said, confidently solidifying the fact that when it came to luxury branding, diversity was in fact good for business.
As for me, after falling in love with boxes and boxes of magnificent shoes, I finally settled on the Christian Louboutin Corneille in black patent leather – a shoe that when slipped on, had the power to reset ones inner femme fatale.
I arrived at the Christian Louboutin boutique a girl with wide eyed curiosity, and I left a woman with newfound confidence and a devotion to those red bottoms.