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Designer Christian Louboutin was lauded at Fashion Institute of Technology's annual commencement yesterday, receiving an honorary doctorate degree from the school for his exceptional work as a designer.
The 51-year-old has become one of the most powerful shoe designers in fashion history. But addressing FIT's graduating class of 2014, Louboutin was graciously humble and apologetically shy, stressing the values of friendship and freedom.
"As a young man, I heard a lot of preconceived ideas, like never sleep where you work and never work with friends," the French designer, dressed in a silk bow-tie and epic shoes from his own collection, said. "But I slept in my design studio for eight years with no showers, and I started a company with my two best friends and 23 years later, we are still the three best friends. I think that everyone should have their own words [to live by]."
Image via Getty
It's striking to think that Louboutin's renowned red-soled shoes have only been around for 23 years, but Paris-born designer built his career after working for other fashion houses. He started out apprenticing at the famous cabaret house Folies Bergères in 1980, where he created designs for the exotic dancers. It was there that Louboutin saw the power of impressive shoes—because the girls had nothing else on. He then freelanced for fashion houses like Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Maud Frizon. Loubtoutin told students that not everyone is meant to start their own company and there is no shame in working for someone else as long as there is room to grow.
"Freedom is a key thing, it's very important for me. Freedom is different for everyone. For me, it meant having my own company but not everyone can do that, and you can be just as happy working for someone else, as long as there is respect for your freedom," he said.
Louboutin noted that he has been obsessed with shoes since he was 12, but said he got fed up at one point in his career and took a break from designing to pursue landscape architecture. He told students it was okay to change paths, especially at a young age, and encouraged them to explore.
Photo by Driely S. for Racked.
"If you ask me if I felt stupid wasting time [gardening], I would say absolutely not. You need a lot of patience for a gardener; I wouldn't give up one second of my gardening experience," he said. "You are at a wonderful age where you can [still] chance your path. Don't decide, when you start something, that this is it. You can still decide and change things around."
The French designer also stressed the importance of enjoying the process of work.
"Do not necessarily pursue a very specific goal. Be more subtle. Enjoy the process. The journey of every day, that becomes a career, that is what achievement is," he said. "Our designs are complete parts of ourselves so what you will unveil must be passionate."
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