Friday, 20 April 2012

The Art of the "bespoke" shoe in Paris. Pierre Corthay and Aubercy, Bottiers a Paris.

Pierre Corthay Bottier

 Pierre Corthay

The Corthay Brothers Cristophe and Pierre


Early days
The Artist as a Young Man
Pierre Corthay was born into a family of actors and artists who lived for and from their art. Very early on, an aunt who sculpted leather transmitted her love of the noble material to young Pierre. As an adolescent, he took up his actor father‟s advice to join the brotherhood of French master artisans, Les Compagnons du Devoir, and to learn and perfect his art during a years-long “Tour de France”. Shoemaking was his obvious discipline of choice.
Under the Master’s Eye
Pierre‟s family was always a source of encouragement and inspiration, and it extended to include great masters such as luxury bottiers John Lobb and Talbinio Berluti. At only 23 years old, after a year working at Berluti‟s side to serve a demanding and impassioned clientele, Pierre took over the made-to-measure atelier which he ran for five years. This was the ideal preparation for his next big step.
The philosophy of “bespoke”
Between a master shoemaker and his client—two strangers who learn to communicate ideas, desires, approaches and alternatives on the way to fashioning unique creations for a unique individual. Over time the two people learn to know, appreciate and respect each other... The artist/artisan shares a special part of his client‟s life. There is a creative relationship rare in today‟s fast-paced and impersonal world, where the artisan‟s skill and sensitivity are fully dedicated to his client‟s discrete and personalized elegance. The bespoke shoe becomes part of the wearer‟s own aesthetic expression.
First creations
1990: It is indeed a big step for a 28 year old shoemaker to open his own atelier just minutes away from the Place Vendôme where the most prestigious names have been housed for centuries. And, thanks to Pierre Corthay‟s courage, determination, talent and flair, he succeeds! His first order comes quickly: 150 pairs of bespoke shoes for the Sultan of Brunei. His big and daring step has led to a successful leap forward.
The next big step
In 1995 Pierre Corthay‟s brother Christophe, also a „Compagnon‟, joins in the adventure. Buoyed by complementary skills and talents, the two young craftsmen pooled their energy and enthusiasm to further develop the atelier‟s activity. Five years later they launched their ready-to-wear collection in collaboration with an Italian sub- contractor/manufacturer.
Unheard of!
In the expression sub-contractor there‟s the prefix “sub”, as in substitute or even sub-standard—a concept that doesn‟t fit with the Corthay brothers‟ demands for the highest quality of material, cut, assembly, and finish. In 2003, for the first time ever, artisans recognized for the highest degree of excellence in custom-made shoes decide to set up their own ready-to-wear manufacturing operation... A world premiere! The Corthays wanted full control of every aspect of production to meet their uncompromising standards for quality in the ready-to-wear line that would bear their name.
The Corthay manufacture
A small facility just outside Paris in Neuilly Plaisance (93) became the flagship installation. Some forty machines were switched on to produce a collection 100% « Made in Corthay ». Born from the art and style of the now well established creators of the Corthay custom- made label, the ready-to-wear line is produced by the most highly qualified technicians- masters of modern shoe manufacturing processes, as committed as their employers to perfection at every stage.
Art and luxury materials come to ready-to-wear
State-of-the-art technology and the highest quality materials came together to produce an exemplary top-shelf collection. Beechwood shanks ensure rigidity of the arches. Natural cork provides perfect insulation. The «extra slow» leathers used for soles have spent a full year in a tanning basin in order to obtain an even and dense fibre. Hides come only from the world‟s finest calf tannery, located in the town of Le Puy. Aniline finishing and casein polishes yield an incomparable transparency and depth of color, at once smooth and exciting to the touch. The patina process is respectful of the raw materials that it ennobles with pigments used to highlight and enrich the natural colors. Such a craftsmanlike approach to manufacturing is unique in the world of luxury ready-to-wear shoes.
Around the world
In the land of the rising sun...
Success breeds success. The creation of the ready-to-wear facility led to the signing of a distribution contract with a Japanese group. As of March, 2004, exclusive Pierre Corthay shops came to Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka. In this tradition-conscious nation, the arrival of a Parisian bottier was exceptionally well received. Two years later a meeting with Yohji Yamamoto, an icon of oriental fashion, brought about another milestone. Seduced by Corthay‟s purity of style, the Japanese master suggested collaboration. Pierre Corthay agreed to create a shoe for the new Y‟Classic collection.
From National to International
At the same time, Pierre‟s work is “discovered” by Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune, who raves about the beauty of the shoes and the excellence of the craftsmanship. Orders and interest increase and Corthay‟s geographical reach expands: the brand is presented in Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, Geneva, Bordeaux, Lyon, Osaka, Tokyo, Brussels, Munich, Maastricht....
In 2008 Pierre is recognized as the leading craftsman in his field and is awarded the highest possible recognition of “Maitre d‟Art” from the French Ministry of Culture. It comes as a further testimony to his skills: indeed he is one of the only two shoemakers in France to be a “Maitre d‟Art”.
In 2010 having established such a strong base, the brand is ready for further expansion, new products and new customers with the firm commitment to maintain excellence. To this aim, a new management team joins Pierre Corthay to see that the ambitions are fulfilled at the dawn of the brand‟s third decade.
The new Corthay boutique in Paris
As an expression of the brand‟s identity the historic Pierre Corthay store is redecorated in October 2010. Elegance and modern charm permeate the store located at 1 rue Volney behind Place Vendome, where clients are welcomed not by sales assistants but by craftsmen who can guide them in their choice of style and fit for a custom-made shoe that combines functionality, style and ultimate comfort.
Despite renovations inside the boutique, the basement that has been occupied by the ateliers Corthay for the past 20 years still remain untouched. To visit them is a journey back in time, a reminder of the true art of shoe making and what luxury originally meant. In 2011 the store of Aoyama in Tokyo will also be renewed, aiming to create the same feel and identity in the Corthay boutiques all around the world.
In Pierre Corthay Blog

Aubercy Bottier

The firm was created in 1935 by Renée and André AUBERCY. First, it was essentially a shop for men, situated 34 Rue VIVIENNE in the stock exchange quarter.

   In 1950, thanks to his friend Arturo LOPEZ the famous after war mentor, Emile AUBERCY had the chance to be in touch with the most famous Londoner shoemakers.

   During his stay, he was immersed in the crafts men's qualities wich give the fame of english shoes. Rich of their knowing, of their rigour and traditionalism, of their research in the perfection of the material, all those different qualities wich give to english shoes their own style and inimitable looking.

   In 1956, he decided to create his own work in order to give his clients, in a changing world where the values of tradition and qualities tended to disappear, a shoe corresponding to his demands that is to say to transpose in confection ; shoes made with the same rigour, the same quality and the same demand than the shoemakers.

   To point his difference, he worked with Italian workers and added English qualities to the making of another view of the shoe wich led him to the perfection in the details and the only sense of esthetic and refinement.

   It is the mixing and the qualities of english traditional rigour, and the italian creativity associated to the french liking wich have given the specificity of the styles created since 1935 by AUBERCY Firm.

   In 1970, his son Philippe and his wife immersed in the same culture have been perpetuated the way. They have decided to enlarge the proposed choice to the client's wives, a large choice of classical shoes made with the same accuracy of perfection. At the same time, acknowledged himself as a craftsman in women shoes made in the way as his men's shoes ( same skin, hard ends, stiffenings, sewn soles.) later a collection wich was composed of highheels, ballerinas, classical pumps, specialist of material as lizard, crocodile or ostrich.

    In 1995, his grand-son, Xavier, wishing to ensure the continuity of the house through the same values, by reorganising his workshops towards an even greater emphasis on hand-crafts, made it possible for his clients to have made-to-measure products in small numbers, as well as large numbers. This was led by Mr Didier Martinez, following in the traditions of the most beautiful boot-making in the world, with the desire of creating the most beautiful items, including technical difficulties and unique possibilities.

 Xavier Aubercy

 Didier Martinez

Photographs of Aubercy by

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