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On Point

Luxury French footwear and fashion designer Christian Louboutin’s revamped Madison Avenue boutiques revel in the details

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To step inside Christian Louboutin’s neighboring New York stores is to wander into something fantastical: a plush red carpet underfoot, surfaces awash in texture, patterns aplenty and images of vividly colored wildlife with satchels dangling from their claws.

The French designer, best known for his sky-high women’s shoe designs with those instantly recognizable red soles, aims for that same playful, over-the-top aesthetic found in his footwear stores. “The attention to detail that [Christian Louboutin] gives to his shoes and bags – the stitching, spikes – inspires us to go above and beyond with the same finesse and detailing,” says Eric Clough, a principal and owner of multidisciplinary New York-based design firm 212box Architecture PC (along with business partner Eun Sun Chun), which has designed approximately 170 Christian Louboutin stores to date.

After the retailer secured a space directly next door to its existing Madison Avenue location, which had anchored the residential building since 2007, 212box transformed the existing store into the new Louboutin men’s shop and created a women’s boutique in the newly acquired space, totaling 4400 square feet for both stores. 

The firm also renovated the storefront that spans across all seven shops in the building’s lower level, creating a metal screen of intricate geometric patterns that were laser-cut, hand-folded and hand-bent. The screen varies in height to preserve the second-floor residential views and is back-painted with a kick of red to differentiate the Louboutin shops from the rest.

“All of our façades for Christian Louboutin attempt to be wild and crazy and stand out,” Clough says, “so as to really accentuate and pull Christian’s personality through everything.”

The playfulness continues inside the women’s boutique: Curved walls featuring cutouts for shoe and bag displays are decked with custom red leather tiles; shoes are the stars in designated arched niches; and the beauty display of CL’s nail polishes positions the tiny spiked works of art among miniature buildings and arches (the store is the first to introduce this concept). And, of course, there’s the floor: “A red carpet will always put you in an amazing mood,” Clough says.

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The look and feel of the spaces shifts from bright tones to a more masculine aesthetic anchored in charcoal and muted hues, as you enter the men’s shop through an antique metal gate (found at a Parisian auction) that connects the two spaces. To further tie the contrasting spaces together, Clough and his team installed two vertical one-way mirrors that allow shoppers in the women’s boutique to witness the happenings next door, unbeknownst to the customers shopping on the men’s side. “Men are always looking and peeking in on women,” he says, “so we thought, ‘Let’s reverse it.’ ”

In the men’s store, more details abound, including pleated plaster walls for texture and a leather-tiled shoe display wall that’s embroidered with four reptilian images. The same artisans that create the embroidery for Christian Louboutin shoes, Clough notes, also crafted the embroidery work on the store’s walls. Reptile and arachnid images of scorpions, snakes and dragons were inspired by tattoo artwork that customers had brought in to have custom stitched on their shoes.

With such disparate looks between the two connected shops, Clough says it was a challenge, but, in the end, they achieved a balance that allows the shopper to experience both worlds. “When you walk in, we want it to feel like your everyday events peel away, and you feel refreshed and are able to view all [of] the materials and the details, in both shoes and architecture.”  

PROJECT SUPPLIERS
Retailer
Christian Louboutin, Paris

Design and Architecture
212box Architecture PC, New York: Eric Clough, design/build; Eun Sun Chun, architect and partner; Nicole Ribadeneira, interiors project manager; Robert Mastro, exteriors project manager; Julian Wu, retail director.

Outside Design Consultants
Looom Lighting Consultants, Lyon, France

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General Contractor
Sage Builders Corp, New York (interior)
RC Dolner LLC, New York (exterior)

Audio/Visual
ECI Communications Corp., Boca Raton, Fla.

Ceilings
Maya Romanoff, Skokie, Ill.

Flooring
Atlas Paradiso, New York
Tretford, New York

Lighting
Viabizzuno, Bologna, Italy
Roll and Hill, New York
Delta Lighting, Wevelgem, Belgium
Loupi, Pantin, France
Roblon, Frederikshavn, Denmark

Fixtures, Furniture, Signage/Graphics, Materials/Wallcoverings, Exterior Panels
212box Architecture PC, New York

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Photography: Nick Rochowski, London

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