Illustration By Damian
Paris is known for its "savoir-faire" in haute couture. But that is for women, what about this excellence in the male attire? Most fashion houses that have menswear, usually have some made-to-measure service. Recently, LVMH opened the doors to these secretive ateliers for the public to see behind the scenes, the craftsmen who perform this magic. I decided to uncover the makings of the most desirable accouterment of the male wardrobe, the bespoke shoe.
BERLUTI was created by Alessandro Berluti in 1895 with his creation of the Alessandro, which is a "soulier" cut entirely in one piece, which is still available and is one of the their best sellers today.
On entering the atelier on the rue Marbeauf in the 8th arrondissement in Paris. I was surprised by the airy arrangement that one may find in a modern office space. Wooden lattice floors with glass walls, line the entrance, enclosing workspaces impeccably organised and strange industrial manufactured machines. Then, leading to corridors where an impressive collection of wooden shoe forms are neatly arranged like letters at the post office.
My guide leads me into a small room where various shoes and boot models are exposed like sculptures. Made from luxurious leathers, crocodile, python and even stingray, it was hard to believe that these were made for select clients for everyday wear. And sitting on a small table, shoe forms marked with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Burton attest to the extend of their celebrity clientele.
Next I was shown onto the workrooms. Scattered across work tables were cardboard patterns, strange utensils and bags filled with shoes in various stages of fabrication. And sitting at these machines, artisans expertly manoeuvre their work to finish minute details. Even the stitches, done by hand, seemed so easy until I realised the strength needed to bind seams so tightly that they were practically waterproof!
Finally, the finishing touches to these hand made wonders, is "glacé" by the sole woman in the atelier. Before leaving, I had to look back, to encompass how this small team of less than 10 artisans, produce over the hundreds of orders from around the world. No wonder the waiting list, no matter the client, is only a mere six months!