Luxury French shoe designer Christian Louboutin is ditching the red carpet for Rio de Janeiro — at least for the next few weeks. The Cuban team will be wearing clothes designed by Christian Louboutin to the Rio Olympics.
Louboutin has three stores in Brazil — one in Brasilia and two in Sao Paolo, in the heart of Iguatemi shopping center, which is sort of like a Brazilian Bloomingdale’s for the country’s luxury aficionados.
Luxury giants have been popping up in Brazil’s upscale shopping centers in recent years, to the delight of the country’s elite.
The French shoe designer is one of about 50 major fashion houses in the country. Others include Louis Vuitton, Cartier and the French leather goods company Longchamp. They’re unstoppable.
But this year, Louboutin is coming to Rio as the official garment designer for the Cuban team.
The designer is abandoning his usual studded loafers, vertiginous sandals, and red soles, and taking on ready-to-wear with a mission to dress the Cuban athletes in style this summer.
If Brazil seems to be fertile ground for the shoe designer and other European brands, the choice of Cuba remains far afield. You don’t need to go to Louboutin’s website to know that he doesn’t sell his famous stilettos in Havana.
Those who have visited Cuba — the land of Fidel and Raul Castro — know that the country is mostly populated with small-scale souvenir shops, and hardly any of them sell imported products.
Christian Louboutin’s website will show you — via a very sophisticated map — that the nearest shop is 537 kilometers from Cuba. Translation: If you want shoes, you have to go to Miami.
But anyway, the reason why the prolific, legendary shoemaker is taking on this project with the Cuban Olympic team is simply because he’s enthusiastic about it. It’s not because he’s concerned with drumming up more business. The ultimate proof: His Olympic items will not be offered for sale, either online or in retail stores.
In preparation for this collection, Louboutin worked closely with his friend Henry Tai, former international handball player and founder of e-concept store SportyHenri.com. The pair came up with the idea for the project during a photoshoot on the Cuban coast. Louboutin brings his expertise in fashion and Henri brings his knowledge of the professional world of sports. The results: A custom-made wardrobe for an entire delegation of over 100 athletes, imagined for formal events.
The collection features scarlet jackets for men and sandy tones for women, calfskin sneakers for men and low-heeled sandals for women. These items are complemented by an array of shorts, skirts and capris, carried out in a chic and sober way.
Far from the standard ultra slim sizes, the gala outfits were envisioned for the dream-like bodies of athletes — bodies freed from stereotypes.
It’s a project at the crossroads, where Cuba joins Rio in the most elegant and authentic way.
The collection is evidence that latin charm continues to dream, and that, in full Olympic swing, it would be wrong to deny it.
This post first appeared on HuffPost France. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.