As a color, “nude” is often loaded with prejudice. In theory, it matches the wearer’s skin color, which makes it easy to pair with just about anything. It’s a wardrobe staple, and therefore a commercial staple for most shoe brands. But in practice, it commonly describes variations of beige with pinkish undertones, which is only “nude” for a certain sliver of the world’s population.
Christian Louboutin, maker of some of the globe’s most-coveted, high-end footwear, has been challenging that notion. Last year the company expanded its nude palette to five different shades. With its spring collection, it has added two more. The brand’s new ad campaign shows off the new range, but as importantly, the move shows why diversity behind the scenes matters.
Louboutin explained his decision to expand the nude range in a blog post last year. “I’ve always done a Nude shoe but only using the color beige,” he said. It wasn’t until a team member bluntly stated “beige is not the colour of my skin” that he recognized “nude” should be a concept rather than a single shade. The heels Louboutin now offers because of that realization range from “porcelain” to “deep chocolate,” as the brand describes them on its Instagram page. There are a few styles available, costing $675 or $875.
As Mic reported, a number of Louboutin’s Instagram followers expressed gratitude for the inclusive approach. In the comments to Louboutin’s ballet-inspired images (ballerina flats, costing $595, are a new addition to the Nudes Collection), one user wrote, “Louboutin – you guys are the best and the only luxury brand that does this. They may ‘only’ be shoes but you’re making a difference by designing and retailing inclusiveness and diversity.”
In runways to magazine covers, fashion still lags in representing a range of races and ethnicities. There are various reasons why, but one recurring argument is that there aren’t enough people of color being hired behind the scenes, where decisions are made.
As for the new nude, the idea may be spreading, if slowly. Underwear brand Björn Borg—yes, from the tennis legend—recently launched a collection featuring six different nude shades.
Still, it’s surprising how often “nude” is used to refer to one shade. Fashion brands have global customer bases. If not for moral reasons, for commercial reasons, more brands should have updated their idea of what nude is long ago. As Louboutin said in his blog post last year, “I have clients from every continent and want to make them happy!”
Fans of the brand’s famous red soles need not worry. They’re still there—and in fact, they similarly owe their origin to one of Louboutin’s staff. He got the inspiration when he saw his assistant painting her nails, and snatched the red nail polish away to slather it on the shoe he was designing.