Christian Louboutin Becomes Latest Brand to Expand Definition of Nude
In the last few years, a new staple in women’s wardrobes has emerged: the nude heel. Fashionistas love it because it goes with everything, while body-conscious consumers appreciate how it makes legs appear longer because the shoe blends in with the skin. At least, it does if a woman happens to be of a lighter hue.
In the fashion world, nude has become a catchword for beige-colored makeup, clothing, and shoes—excluding the skin tones of women from the rest of the globe’s diverse population. Now designer Christian Louboutin seems to be doubling down on his commitment to providing footwear that matches his diverse customer base. This week, Louboutin expanded one of his lines of heels to include seven shades of nude, building on a 2015 release of the heel in five diverse shades. Also, for women who don’t wear heels, the line will now come in a ballet flat as well.
“I have clients from every continent and want to make them happy,” Louboutin wrote in a blog post about the shift.
The idea, Louboutin explained, came to him while he was designing a nude heel that was only going to be offered in the traditional beige color. When a member of his design team pointed out that beige was not the color of her skin, nor was it the color of several fellow designers’ skin, he began envisioning nude as a concept rather than a singular skin color.
Patrice Grell Yursik, creator of the popular beauty and fashion blog Afrobella, thinks Louboutin is on “the right track” in recognizing his diverse customer base.
“My nude, my flesh, has never been and never will be beige,” Yursik wrote in an email to TakePart. “Traditionally the mainstream definition of ‘nude’ or ‘flesh’ colored has been deliberately crafted to exclude people of color.”
Yursik wrote that brands may want to reconsider color descriptors for their products when they “realize the place of assumption and exclusion that those titles come from.”
The new line arrives as a number of brands have begun exploring nude as a spectrum of skin tones—and the shift goes beyond the fashion world. Last year, a Swedish company announced that it would begin selling a wider selection of flesh-colored bandages intended to match the skin of the wearer.
But Louboutin’s line has its skeptics. Amy Williams, fashion design chair at California College of the Arts, told TakePart the new line likely has economic motivations as well.
“He’s probably hit his group of women who can easily afford a $795 pump in the Western world. Now he’s got to reach a broader range,” she said.
However, Williams believes the new line will ultimately have a positive impact. Many people cannot afford Louboutin’s shoes, but his actions are likely to influence more affordable brands to follow suit. “I’m sure Steve Madden will have a line out this summer,” she said.