Christian Louboutin opens his first ever UK retrospective today at the Design Museum in London. Although his global success and contribution to fashion is indubitable, it is his inspiring creative process that the retrospective focuses on. Deyan Sudjic, the museum’s director, describes him as “a consummate craftsman with an extraordinary eye for detail. A creative force of nature”.
At yesterday’s press conference, Louboutin explained that one of the difficulties of the exhibition was that the shoes were necessarily seen as objects rather than being viewed worn. Louboutin said that his designs start from a sketch but they are “never complete until the moment of seeing them on someone’s foot”. Nevertheless, his designs are so sexy and have become so iconic that they don’t even have to be worn to be “complete”. In our fetishistic culture, where images frequently substitute reality, a photo of a pair of Louboutins can be as sexy as someone wearing the red soled shoes.
Louboutin’s designs are indeed too sexy to have to serve a function or be practical but what about contemporary architectural designs, which must almost dogmatically follow function, can they ever be sexy? Can the design term “sexy”, which is so often used by architecture academics mainly to grab their audience’s attention, ever be accurately used for buildings?
Sexiness is ultimately related to gender and for a building to be sexy it must incorporate an abstract notion of gender. Traditionally female buildings are thought of as excessively decorated and curvy, whereas male buildings are more minimal and angular. Yet buildings that can clearly be attributed a gender are rarely sexy -it is too farfetched to suggest that the Gherkin is sexy even though it has a huge phallic shape.
Good examples of contemporary architecture that arouse our senses tend not have an apparent gender and that is the exact reason why architecture can be flashy, seductive and exiting to the senses but not sexy per se…