My Favourite Room - Christian Louboutin Has His Eyes Opened to the World

As a child, I would go past the Palais de la Porte Dorée every weekend, but the façade - with its 'stone tapestry' - was so imposing, even faintly scary, that I didn't dare go in. It was only when I heard that inside the building was the largest aquarium in France, that I summoned up the courage to enter. Even then I loved fish.

The Palais had been built as a centrepiece for the Colonial Exhibition in 1931. On either side of the grand hall that stretched the width of the building were two rooms that had a profound effect on me. One was known as Paul Reynaud's Oval Room - a reception room used by Reynaud who was the Minister for the Colonies. This room had an African theme. It was designed by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, using materials that had been brought back from countries such as Côte d'Ivorie and Mali. The other was Marshall Lyautey's salon, which had an Asian narrative and a most beautiful dome, with frescoes showing Buddha meditating and Confucius teaching. There was also superlative furniture, designed by the cabinetmaker, Eugène Printz. Everything in both the rooms was created to make a statement about the two cultures.

These rooms changed my world. It was my first discovery of different civilisations and different points of view. My family originally came from Brittany, and my life was constructed around a triangle, moving between Paris (where I was brought up), Brittany, and sometimes north of Spain or Italy. But that's about it. The idea there was an exotic world beyond, and waiting to be discovered, was intoxicating.

One feature was particularly exciting: a handle in the African salon made from an ivory tusk. There was also a chair with three legs rather than four. It was a revelation that objects were not just created for function, but for beauty as well. It triggered my imagination about how there was a spectrum of objects I didn't even know existed that could be used for purposes as yet undreamt of.

This month, there is an exhibition at the Palais about my life and work. Accompanying it is an 'imaginary museum' – a room in which I have gathered objets d'art that have been sources of inspiration, and which links the show to a place where I first experienced aesthetic emotions. I have to thank this museum for setting me off on a journey to discover other cultures, both in real life and in the mind. And, of course, for letting me see the fish.

Christian Louboutin is a fashion designer.

Photo: © José Castellar

'Christian Louboutin L'Exhibition[niste]' runs until 26 July at Palais de la Porte Dorée, Paris.

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