The madcap mind of Christian Louboutin strikes again as the designer drops his latest sneaker the brilliantly named Loubishark. You already know the brand. Nicki Minaj wears their famous red-soled stilettos, Sean Paul and Chief Keef want to buy them for their partners and you have seen their spiked sneakers on the feet of some of the world's heaviest ballers. What you may not know is that Christian Louboutin is punk af. Everything he creates is rooted in rebellion and the counterculture. Obvious examples like the simple use of red as the outsole for his heels instantly come to mind, spiked sneakers are another. But few know of his cameo in the cult French flick, Race d’EP (The Homosexual Century), and his link-up with David Lynch to create the unwearable shoe collection which the director would photograph for his series "Fetish" in 2007.
The Loubishark picks up on Christian Louboutin’s elevated DIY aesthetics with exaggerated forms and bold color pops running throughout the sneaker. Despite its high-fashion appearance, the Loubishark is the designer's most tech-heavy and sports-inspired silhouette to date. You may not win any marathons in these naughty numbers but you will 100 percent be taking the attention away from the Eliud Kipchoge’s and Mo Farahs of this world.
The Shark’s standout feature is the red ‘teeth’ that make up the outsole, which according to the brand takes 67 hours to create with their mould sculpting milling machines. It is definitely a head-turner, but despite the jokes about running a marathon in them, the Loubishark’s are actually constructed for maximum comfort. The outsole whilst resembling the sneaker namesakes teeth and giving a subtle shoutout to the house’s signature spikes are also inspired by athletic track spikes.
The upper has a more traditional (kind of) running sneaker feel to it with suede and leather overlays combining with a molded rubber cage in a pattern, inspired by Louboutin’s first store in Paris’s historical Galerie Véro Dodat.
If the Loubishark is the rule-breaking punk kid of the luxury sneaker classroom then there was only one person Louboutin could work with on the artwork for the sneaker. Hey Reilly.
Also partial to a bit of mischief and rebellion, Hey Reilly has been doing bits on Instagram with his topical meme onslaught on fashion and celebrity culture. A modern-day dadaist if you will. Cutting and pasting the faces of the famous, and logos of the untouchable into hilariously captioned 1080-by-1080 pixels works of art.
We caught up with both Christian Louboutin and Hey Reilly to delve deeper into both artist’s work and how they both came to their respective creative conclusions for the project.
What was the inspiration behind your designs?
Christian Louboutin: For Loubishark, I had in mind something between mangas and Pacman with a childish twist like big shark teeth or waves like a saw. There is something in children's drawings that I really like: the proportions, they always exaggerate the head or the hands. For the Loubishark, I was keen to have a thick very graphic sole with a very playful upper, made of a mix of fabrics, patterns, and colors very representative of my universe, thanks to the unique savoir-faire of our artisans based in Italy.
Hey Reilly: I wanted to locate and play with the iconography of sharks in popular mythology. Teeth! Jaws! They’re the ultimate bad-ass fish but also signify something fun somehow, like cartoonish villains and the pop-art inflatable.
What's the starting point in your respective design processes?
CL: Everything starts with a drawing. When I’m designing a shoe for a woman, I am thinking of her walking, dancing, moving. It’s important for me to have a leg on the sketch to get the attitude. For a man’s style, it’s quite different, I see it more as an object, a piece of design, it’s more static. I always try to be faithful to the original drawing because, in it, there is always a bit of imagination, on shapes, curves, etc.
HR: I brain dump all the cultural associations I have knocking around in me, then I might watch a few films, scribble notes and start to collide ideas and collate images, searching for concepts that work for me as sub-conscious non-verbal signs. Then it’s a process of building concepts, reworking only minimally to keep things sharp and bitey, and then...!
Art and fashion have long-lived side by side, influencing each other in countless ways. What are your thoughts on their relationship with each other?
HR: The future comes at you fast, and then faster. If art is a message, then fashion can be its best medium. The many issues that face the world can seem overwhelming, but art and fashion have a shared history that brings power, immediacy, and a sense of fun to an issue. For art and fashion, for culture and humanity too, we need to be serious about messaging clarity and serious about finding solo time for reflexive learning and personal development. Art makes new ways to understand and reflect our evolving realities, and fashion channels the serious zeitgeist into fun, making new ways of presenting, being, and dreaming a better future.
CL: For a while art nourished fashion but they were two separate worlds living apart. Some would consider fashion as an art but the art world was not necessarily accepting this concept. For two decades, fashion has started to commission artists through collaborations but also in their temples of luxury. At one point royal families and the church, at least in Europe, were the big commissioners of artists. Now, it seems that fashion has taken that role and pretty seriously. I was at first reluctant but I’ve to admit that this marriage seems to my eyes pretty well made now and functioning in many good ways.
Since working on the Loubishark, what has got your creative juices flowing?
CL: I find recent research into sustainable fabrics very interesting. Working mostly with leather, it’s a subject I need time to process as I really want to understand from A to Z what would be the most interesting options. I heard about this start-up in Brooklyn growing leather cells in labs without any animal intervention, leather can even be grown at the exact shape you need it. Promising!
Since confinement, I spent a lot of time listening to the Cape Verdean singer Mayra Andrade. She’s born in Cuba, used to live in Paris and now lives in Lisbon, so many places I adore and such a talented woman. I also spent hours listening to Rosalia and Maluma that I’ve met a few times, I love his energy and his kindness, and Lido Pimenta. And to send memes to my friends.
Both your work has a sense of mischief to it. How do mischief and rebellion influence you and the way you design?
CL: About preconceived ideas, mayhem, right choices to do, I’ll give you something to think about: don’t go through the idea of having only one way to do things, I did not listen to people when I started my company and I can tell you I’m doing very fine. An achievement is not one day in the future. It is a sum of all these moments where you have learned and loved and nourished your passion. Same when it comes to creativity, there isn’t a single way of being creative and that’s what makes art and fashion so interesting. Red soles for example are one of these, a happy accident as I grabbed my assistant's nail lacquer to erase the black sole on one of my first prototypes, and almost 30 years later it’s still relevant and more than just relevant, it became my signature.
HR: I make images that aim to hit the viewer smack on their visual cortex, with an almost unconscious POP that’s close to a sense of precognition. So, I have no qualms about using mischief and mayhem to make and break images as I look for ideas for new signs and symbols, reworking our collective consciousness by cutting up, clashing, layering, and smashing icons together.
So there you have it. Two legends of their game have come together with Hey Reilly creating the promotional artwork for the Loubishark. Check out what Hey Reilly did with the sneaker above and head here to buy the new Loubishark.
The Loubishark will initially be available in three colorways with the full range dropping from October.