Insider: L.A State of Mind… Action Hero… London Calling…

L.A. State of Mind
Christian Louboutin has an affinity for Los Angeles — and he’s working on a special 2009 collection of shoes inspired by and made exclusively for the city. “I love everything about Los Angeles,” he said during his recent West Coast trip. “I’m definitely planning on spending more time [here] than I have in the last couple of years.” Louboutin hit the West Coast for the opening of his new store in South Coast Plaza’s Penthouse in Orange County, Calif. Will a store follow in L.A. proper? “I’m thinking about adding something, but it’s still a question mark,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t begin serious planning until after debuting his stores in Tokyo and Madrid in mid-2009. Insider also recently caught up with Louboutin in Hong Kong, where he stopped by the Cat Street Gallery for the opening of filmmaker David Lynch’s photography show, which centered around Louboutin’s fetish-inspired shoes. “The project came about quite naturally,” said Louboutin, who explained that the goal was to create shoes that were like “forbidden fruit.” Those who suggest the shoes are impractical are missing the point, he said. “They aren’t made to be worn — at least not for long.” Instead, Louboutin sees the designs as “shoe sculptures that highlight the most beautiful parts of the foot: the arch and the instep.” While the designer said his favorites from the project change depending on his mood, one pair in particular stands out: his Ballerina shoe. “The ballerina style is a shoe icon. It’s the ultimate high heel when a dancer is en pointe, so I just added a heel to the ultimate high heel. For me it’s a symbolic shoe,” said Louboutin. Other remarkable pieces include the Siamese shoes, in which the heels are joined together, and barbed-wired boots. “Ideas are not a problem, making them into reality is the problem,” he quipped.

Action Hero
The launch of Kenneth Cole’s new book, “Awearness: Inspiring Stories About How to Make a Difference,” couldn’t have come at a better time. “Barack Obama is an inspiring model for all of us,” the designer said at a celebration in his Grand Central Station store in New York on Nov. 12. “He’s created a sense of energy and spirit that has changed our lives in very profound ways.” For his part, Cole has made social action a part of his personal and professional life for more than 25 years — and he’s marking that silver anniversary with the book. “[This project] was a way for me to reflect on how I got here,” he said, “and the goal is to give people the opportunity to be as inspired as I was and give them the tools to access this actionable, transforming stuff.” The volume contains 86 stories and essays from a wide range of contributors, including Lance Armstrong, Robert Redford, Blake Mycoskie and Rosario Dawson. “I love being able to use my voice to make a change,” said Dawson, who co-hosted the launch party with Cole. Also in attendance was designer/model Lauren Bush, fashion heir David Lauren and Diane von Furstenberg.

London Calling
Stacy London, co-host of TLC’s “What Not to Wear” and a professed shoe addict, spilled the beans recently about her upcoming plans to launch a shoe collection. “That’s always been the dream,” she said. “I feel like I could take the best of what I know about high fashion and translate it into a comfortable and fashionable shoe at a reasonable price.”  London, who started her career as a fashion assistant at Vogue before becoming senior fashion editor at Mademoiselle, said she’s in talks with several companies about licensing opportunities. She’s staying mum on the details, but said stilettos will certainly be a big part of what she does. “I’m pretty well known for wearing heels,” she said.

Giving Spirit
Payless ShoeSource
is playing Santa this season. The retailer is planning to give $1 million worth of shoes — more than 65,000 pairs — to children and families through charities for the holiday. The idea for the giveaway came about after employees began discussing the challenges facing everyday consumers. “One morning, a few of us got together and were concerned about what was happening in the overall economy and what would happen to our customers who were most in need,” CEO Matt Rubel told Insider. “We saw that unemployment was going up and people were having other material and financial challenges. We know it impacts our communities and we stepped up to do the right thing.” The program, launching on Paylessgives.com, works with nonprofits across the country that serve children and families.

Catching Up
Insider recently chatted with former Jones Apparel Group President and CEO Peter Boneparth for the first time since he left the firm in July 2007. Boneparth, who spoke Oct. 28 at a conference hosted by retail consultant Emmanuel Weintraub Associates, said that due to a rigorous noncompete agreement with Jones, he can’t resurface in the retail industry until March 2009 — if at all. (He couldn’t even disclose whether he would like to work again in the footwear or retail sector.) Aside from being elected a board member at Kohl’s Corp. earlier this year, Boneparth said he is enjoying his time off, pursuing hobbies such as golf and spending time with his family — a 14 year-old son and 18- and 20-year-old daughters. While he declined to name the company, he said he’d soon accept a board seat at another firm outside the retail space.

Run, Ruthie, Run!
If you know Ruthie Davis, you know she rarely wears anything other than 5-inch heels. So Insider was shocked to discover that Davis is a marathon runner. The designer abandoned her stilettos on Nov. 2 to run the New York City Marathon for the second time. “I had the best day. I was shocked at how strong I felt,” said Davis. “It wasn’t my first marathon, but I haven’t done a marathon in 15 years. So I was definitely somewhat apprehensive.” After finishing in an impressive 4 hours, 10 minutes, Davis said she’s officially been bitten by the marathon bug. “I am so pumped and I want to do it again next year.”

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