18 July 2014 – French Savoir-Faire
The Seven Families of Summer Shoes
Like the rendezvous you wait for all year, like that bottle of rosé that launches the barbeque season, summer shoes announce that the holidays are fast approaching, finally freeing our feet from any formality.
But beware: if the summer shoe is freedom to our feet… our seasonal sandals must still abide by fashion rules. And because we are heading to the beach, we can’t let the coast get the better of us. And so it is essential to have options. For every seaside scenario there is an iconic shoe, and every clan has its preferences.
Look out: it’s a cult house! In the great heritage of Saint Tropez, Sénéquier and Rondini are unrivalled. First, let’s set the record straight: Rondini existed before K-Jacques. And so, to those gangs of Parisians who snub your sandals, simply reply that yours are guaranteed to last for life. For life?! Or so to speak. Natural leather loosens over time, and so if necessary, you can have your straps adjusted every year in the third generation Rondini ateliers. And it was Dominique Rondini, a bootmaker by trade, who came up with this very notion in Saint Tropez…In 1927, he decided to liberate ladies’ feet with a thick leather model, which proved to be comfortable and sexy on a stroll from small harbour to the Place des Lices. Today, it is his grandson Alain Rondini who continues the tradition…Needless to say, the collections have become more elaborate (nubuck leather and crocodile skin…) but the expertise remains unchanged, with hand-stitched top quality leather. Just ask any of those ready-tongued dames, who respond that opting for Rondini is a commitment. A commitment to this legendary vendor, who does shoes for Marlène Dietrich and Colette!
Cheer up: before war is declared, the battle is already on. These K-Jacques fall in line with the Rondinis, some five years after the overnight success of their first models in 1933. Mr. and Mrs. Kéklikian Jacques came up with the idea to abbreviate the name of the label in the 70s, rechristening it K-Jacques. But it wasn’t just a question of simplifying the name, more the handcrafted production, which requires no fewer than 46 manual operations and an hour of concentrated handwork. In their day, Brigitte Bardot and Picasso endorsed this style pronto…You know the rest: worldwide success, even if production remains reasoned.
A change of port means a change of style. Welcome to the city of Marius, where the strappy sandal rediscovers its roots: swap St. Tropez for Sparta. Little known by the public, these shoes are the pride and joy of Marseillaise fashion. Entirely French, 100% artisanal and in natural leather, they are made on site by family business O’Kiss. Founded in 1998, the company instantly specialised in dance shoes but it was their gladiator flats or wedges that made a break-through. It’s secret weapon? Price. Spend less than 100 euros on a pair, half the cost compared to its rivals in the peninsula.
It’s an outrage: espadrilles on the coast of Var! We blame the nostalgic: “In espadrilles, you can party all night, you can cycle, say goodbye to work…lalalala”; doesn’t this remind you of something? Admittedly, there have been major fans from the word go. Like Jean-Edern Hallier, the author of the inspirational quote: “Trust women. Wear espadrilles in the rain”. The result: three friends – Nicolas, Laurent and Paul – and espadrille fanatics since forever, decided to take the plunge. With €300,000 in hand, they created the styles they wanted to wear, with just one specific demand: make them 100% French. Of course, manufacturing is done in the South West…but each model bears a symbolic place-name from the Var city. The boys have brought out several limited editions in the mix and a strong dose of fantasy (like this pair; the left shoe sporting the head of François Hollande and on the right, the face of Nicolas Sarkozy…) With hundreds of different references and prints, you only need to save €80 to buy a pair. These are a far cry from Daddy’s espadrilles!
Whatever the print, we instantly recognise the stitched badge on the canvas. It is as if you proudly wear the coat of arms of your chosen clan, channelling an elegant resistance fighter in the heart of the Riviera. A believer of loafers moulded into picots, into eternal docksides…elegant because they can be worn from breakfast – in their most classic form – until late in the evening, with a leather lace-up look. It goes without saying that these are 100% ‘Made in France’, pushing the boundaries to their limits, with its interior border designed in red, white and blue as a trademark. In short, this is the chic and anti-bling signature of the Côte d’Azur.
Stamped with the title “Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant” (translation: A Living Heritage Label), Don Quichosse is a part of these “handcraft businesses that contribute towards French and economic prestige”, to quote the catchphrase. This is because these soles demand an hour of work of Jean-Jacques and his wife Danièle, who get up at 3am every morning and work through until 7 o’clock at night. The couple, who compare their routine to that of bakers, produce one hundred espadrilles a day. Thus, they have become widely recognised as inheritors of this mauléonais expertise, eternalising the activity of this century-old company, continuing to use machinery of a similar age.
Based in the espadrille capital of the world – Mauléon – Art of Soule bursts with youthful energy and imagination. Embodied by young quadras Julien and Mathieu, this duo wanted to rejuvenate the class of this legendary shoe, formerly worn by Spanish shoulders. The result: prints that rival those in Asia but for your feet; it is the fruit of French savoir-faire and ancestral techniques that these experts bring to the table. Jute twine, hemp and cotton canvas create quality materials, washable soles and leather-lined interiors, improving comfort levels. These are espadrilles 2.0!