Christian Louboutin balked when 25-year-old Marie Laffont showed up to her interview with 100 sketches in tow. “Never again,” he told her. But he hired her anyway.

The Parisian shoe designer, now 35, originally trained to be a lawyer, until her first Celine fashion show changed her mind. “The show started with ‘Good Vibrations,’ by the Beach Boys, and I suddenly knew I’d be a designer one day,” Laffont tells me. True to her word, she quit her law courses at the Université Panthéon-Assas and enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, which counts Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent among its alumni. She worked at French fashion house Sonia Rykiel for a year before earning another master’s, this time at the École Duperré. (“I felt I was lacking an art background,” she says.) There, Laffont studied under luxury-footwear designer Pierre Hardy, who “encouraged my vision, my world,” she says. Laffont credits Hardy with her decision to become a shoe designer.