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Christian Louboutin was watching a June 15, 2020, Instagram Live conversation between Idris and Sabrina Elba and Black Lives Matter co-founder and activist Opal Tometi, and he says the no-holds-barred talk about race in America and amplifying voices instantly resonated with him. “First of all, the subject of the discussion speaks directly to me: consideration for people despite your skin tone, color or origin,” Louboutin tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Idris was very clear about the importance of making a contribution, whether through a donation or work toward lasting, structural change. Watching such dear friends’ commitment to something so important moved me a lot. I agreed that of course we have to take action, but I wanted to offer more than a check; I wanted to provide practical solutions that ladder up to systemic change for communities.”
The designer of some of the world’s most coveted shoes and accessories reached out to the Elbas (whom he’s known since they visited him in Paris four years ago) the next day. “It was an honest conversation between friends,” Sabrina says of the call. “We’ve always felt like we could be open with Christian, and we talked about our frustrations at the time and continued the conversation we were having on [Instagram Live].”
Ideas about a tangible project quickly followed, and the result is “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” a collaboration between Louboutin and the Elbas, which drops today. The name is derived from a visit Idris Elba made to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Los Angeles and is a phrase that the actor says he hopes will inspire empathy in people.
“The collection is meant in no way to suggest that anyone walk in our shoes specifically, but to look and be open and understanding to those around you who may not have the same privilege in life and are facing systematic injustices that we all need to rally against,” Idris tells THR. “We want everyone to see that there are ways we can contribute and be innovative about that contribution. None of us are profiting from this collaboration; the Christian Louboutin team is 100 percent dedicated to this cause, and we hope that will set some precedent.”
All proceeds from the 20-piece capsule collection, available at select Christian Louboutin boutiques and the brand’s website, will go to five nonprofit organizations chosen by the trio. “Sabrina really is the motor of this collaboration when it comes to the charities,” Louboutin says. “She’s very empathetic [and has] a thorough understanding of charities specific to this subject all over the world. It was important for us to select grassroots organizations not only based in the U.S., as it’s a global problem, [but also] organizations working with young generations, as they are the ones to move the agenda forward in the future.”
Explains Sabrina, “We wanted to select organizations at the grassroots level that would have the most impact. All the organizations we selected are ones that speak to ourselves and Christian personally: organizations like [London-based] Immediate Theatre, of which Idris is a patron, and Somali Hope Foundation, which offers free schooling for children in a rural town, [like one in which my] mother grew up. We also wanted to make sure we supported organizations throughout the world. When we saw the international support that rallied around George Floyd’s murder, it reminded everyone that this is a global struggle.” The additional three philanthropic organizations to receive funds from the sales are Maryland-based Be Rose International Foundation, a humanitarian-relief group that assists women and children in vulnerable communities; Dallas-based Purposeful Philanthropy Foundation, which provides mentorship for girls; and The Gathering for Justice, the New York-based organization co-founded by Harry Belafonte, which works for criminal-justice reform.
“Gathering for Justice is very dear to me, as it aims to end child incarceration,” Louboutin notes. “In the future we are planning to work with other organizations to try to help and highlight a larger scope of communities.”
How did this partnership decide on the collection’s themes and styles? Louboutin looked to some of his most popular designs as a jumping-off point. “It was important to fundraise as much as possible for the charities,” he says simply, while they also sought a balance between flats and heels, sneakers and dress shoes, so the collection could connect with the widest possible audience. That strategy translated to pieces like Louboutin’s iconic So Kate pump, his Dandelion men’s loafer, and his Vieira sneaker. Prices in the capsule collection range from $875 to $3,995.
Idris Elba also contributed his own artistic vision to the effort, a red-trimmed black high-top sneaker dubbed the 1988 SL, co-designed by the actor and Louboutin. “It’s a completely new style. Idris used to send me on WhatsApp some sketches of sneakers he did on his own; this collection was the perfect purpose to realize his dream,” Louboutin adds.
Most pieces are crafted in black leather or other materials, with “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” rendered in a vibrant red embroidery or strass crystals. “We needed something to counterbalance a bit this heaviness and to say that hope and enthusiasm can exist during challenging times,” Louboutin says.
The second chapter in the collection is inspired by the bird of paradise flower known as Mandela’s Gold, so named to honor Nelson Mandela after the leader and activist became the first Black president of South Africa. Its symbolism as a freedom flower made Mandela’s Gold an ideal inspiration for the collection, Idris notes: “It was important to look at the beauty of our community, and we hope to highlight some of the positives and successes of those within the struggle.”
Ultimately, the collection took almost exactly one year from concept to its drop precisely because continuing the effort is the long-term goal, rather than a quick hit in a buzzy moment. Louboutin says the idea always was “to work on something together to make sure this conversation doesn’t end right after [the Black Lives Matter movement] is no longer a trending topic. That’s why it took us almost a year to launch this collection, because we were keen to make it in a meaningful and perennial way.”
Adds Sabrina, “We’re so honored [Christian] wanted to do it together. It’s been such a fulfilling process, and it’s made our friendship stronger.”
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