As a runaway teen in Paris, Christian Louboutin became fascinated with women's shoes after visiting a museum of African art. There he saw a sign forbidding women from wearing stilettos into a particular building, which he later said inspired him. "I wanted to defy that," he said. "I wanted to create something that broke the rules and made women feel confident and empowered." When he returned to Paris after spending time in Egypt and India, he became an apprentice to the shoemaker who claimed to have invented the stiletto, and in 1991, at the age of 29, he opened his first shoe store.

Thirty years later, business is booming. The company Christian Louboutin now operates 150 boutiques across 30 countries in Europe, North America, and Asia. The shops sell high-end women's and men's shoes, as well as bags and other accessories.

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Meg Waters

Meg Waters is the editor in chief of Treasury & Risk. She is the former editor in chief of BPM Magazine and the former managing editor of Business Finance.