I’ve been pretty busy the last two weeks. The trip to Paris was tiring as usual. I don’t know why I am unable to resonate with this city. Maybe there are too many tourists, maybe there’s too much noise and, paradoxically, too many men dressed without style. Anyway, maybe it’s just my fault. Being always on the run I don’t give it enough time, and maybe, seeing me always in a hurry (due to business, not pleasure) Paris is not in the mood for me either.
Three pleasant memories and two unpleasant ones. A delicious pastry shop near Notre Dame, which name I couldn’t keep in mind. Parisians may not know it yet, but coffee in Paris is almost always dreadful. Café Coutume ( 47 rue de Babylone) is an exception (I had three Cappuccinos if you imagine).
Finally the Musée de l’Armée - I have to go back there with my son.He will be thrilled. As for unpleasant chapters – the visitor guides from the Lafayette Galleries should really take a shower every morning! The second one, the bearded salesman from the Carmina store on Avenue de L’Opera. I realize that I wasn’t very fashionable that afternoon, but a little bit of respect for the client wouldn’t be a bad thing. I was just passing through the area and I went inside the shop to try two lasts – Robert and Detroit.
Robert last (carmina)
The first one was fondly recommended by a loyal Carmina client as being utterly comfortable (which is actually true), and the second one appealed to me from the Carmina website – a Cordovan model. I wasn’t planning on buying anything, but I intended to see how my own foot feels them. After trying them, the gentleman who had presented them to me wrote very irritated the models on a piece of paper, telling me that “you can buy them cheaper from the internet”, troubled by the fact that I had bothered him without buying anything. I didn’t want to reply (probably he was just before his lunch break, when everybody – especially French people – are more intolerant). His attitude however, to put it in an elegant manner, left much to be desired.
Detroit last (carmina)
Going back to Carmina Forest, it is a rounded last with a generous toe box (E width). It has an English air and fits very well my foot. Detroit (EE width) is some sort of a minivan – not as good-looking as the Simpson, but clearly larger and more comfortable. Carmina remains in the top regarding RTW, I can only congratulate them for that. By the way, try to visit the store without your wife/girlfriend. If they see the Madison last boots you may leave the store with at least one extra shopping bag.
Anyway even I was a little bit annoyed by the Carmina French seller I did however follow his advice. And guess what I have found? Sale on Carmina E-shop for sizes From 5 UK to 6.5 UK and from 11 UK to 14 UK. Plenty of nice shoes especially on Robert and Detroit lasts. I guess the traffic will be high these days on their website…
When I returned I passed through Budapest, where I stopped only for a few hours, so I didn’t have time to get to Laszlo Vass. I need a Plain Oxford and the F last would have been perfect. Anyway, you have below some photos of recent models (more pictures soon to come).
Last Friday, for a change, I had a coffee with Valentin Frunza from Chisinau, Republic of Moldova. Valentin improved very much the quality of his shoe, an important role being played by his association with Petru Zelenco, a client become partner after ordering more than 15 pairs. Valentin’s optimism is contagious, managing to make you understand what you are actually buying. Displeased with the quality of the materials from the Republic of Moldova, Valentin traveled through Western Europe, and now his shoes benefit from Herbert Kolde (Vienna) leathers and Rendenbach Flexible soles. At his trunk show he brought shoes in various stages of fabrication, making it easier for you to understand how he builds his product. More pictures from the trunk show soon to come.
It was an idea that myself and Tommaso Melani at Stefano Bemer had – a way to bring together some of the best bespoke shoemakers around Europe, who rarely meet each other, let alone have a chance to see all the buyers at Pitti face to face.
How would you summarize the conclusion of the roundtable discussion? I noticed John Carnera was also invited…
Extraordinarily positive. Not only did everyone enjoy meeting each other for the first time (Pierre Corthay meeting John Carnera of Cleverley was a particular highlight) but the discussion was optimistic and collaborative. Everyone was talking of meeting up again soon.
John is a gentleman of shoes. Gentility in all its wonderful senses. He is both an artisan and a lovely human being. I think everyone enjoyed chatting to him – he was the star, whether he realized it or not.
There are any plans for a second edition of beShoes? New guests perhaps?
Yes, we are already talking about something in June. The guests may be different, but we still want to keep this collaborative feeling among the shoemakers who met last time, so in any case there will be something separate for them.
What memories do you have of your first pair of shoes?
I have no early memories I’m afraid – everyone seems to have a great story about how they got into clothing or shoes early in life. It happened late for me, but with no less intensity.
How many pairs of bespoke shoes do you have?
Cleverley – brown oxfords, black wing tips, reindeer double-monks.
Gaziano & Girling – brown oxfords, hatchgrain slip-ons.
Stefano Bemer– tan oxfords.
Santoni – brown derbys.
Tim Little – tan chelsea boots.
Foster & Son – in the works.
Norman Vilalta – in the works.
Antonio Pio Mele – in the works.
For the Stefano Bemer bespoke shoes you were initialy measured by Stefano himself. What memories do you have on that meeting?
Lovely and also very sad, as Stefano was ill and clearly suffering.
Best fitting pair of shoes?
Tough, but I’d say the Gaziano&Girling oxfords.
Worst fitting pair of shoes?
Bespoke? Hard to say really. The little imperfections are all in different places so they don’t compare very easily.
What English RTW shoemakers do you favor?
Edward Green primarily; also a fan of Crocketts. I’ve generally always been of the view that a man should buy Northampton shoes, and buy the best he can afford, whatever that is.
Are your feet happy with a specific last?
I’ve found the Edward Green 888 in a 9D works well. But no, nothing is perfect.
In bespoke shoemaking/tailoring is customer always right?
No, not at all. In matters of both taste and fit, the customer can often be wrong.
Who was the first person that influenced you most?
These days Italians want to be English, the English want to be Italian. Is this fashion melange a threat to Classic English style?
Not at all, it has brought us great things – the modern Italian style we love; the world of Ralph Lauren.
What do you feel about English shoemaking industry today? Spanish or Asian producers have very competitive prices. What are in your opinion the strong points and the weak points of English shoemaking industry?
Quality, essentially. Reliability of make, often through experience and the machinery, much of which cannot be made any more.
What do you describe your personal style?
Subtle, conservative, with a keen focus on fit and bridging the gap between classing suiting and a contemporary lifestyle.
What was the most extravagant item you have ever worn?
Probably my Cifonelli cashmere overcoat.
What are your favorite places to spend your evenings?
At home, with my family.
What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?
Craft and originality.
What turns you off?
Conceit and dishonesty.