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Once upon a time…

From the very beginning it started with a dream. Judy Garland clicked her ruby heels together in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and I was hooked. As a teenager, I would buy my shoes at ‘Carel’ or ‘Bally', and those that I never was allowed to wear came from ‘Sacha’, other reasonably audacious shoes were bought at ‘Charles Jourdan’ and I even found some very charming vintage pairs at the flea market.

I would line them up at the foot of my bed and they would inspire me to draw and design. I would wear them till they fell apart at the seams and then I would deconstruct them to discover how they were made.

As the years passed my passion for shoes grew exponentially, to the point where I had a one track mind: to create my own shoes, by hand.

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Training

Once I knew I wanted to create shoes, I spent many months searching for a ‘Maitre Bottier’, a master boot maker who would undertake to teach me how to make shoes by hand. In my search, many of these master artisans kept their knowledge well hidden, telling me that the manufacture of shoes was a skill reserved solely for men. In their mind women should stick to needlework not shoe-making. I did thankfully find one master artisan who agreed to pass on his knowledge to me, a wonderful man called Maurice Arnoult.

 

I remember the first time I entered his atelier and I saw his two apprentices who filled the tiny space with their presence. I soaked up the atmosphere, wooden shoe lasts; rolls of the softest skins; card backed patterns of all sorts upholstered every free space of wall. And so I found a space to sit, on the bench covered in tools and random objects, and I created my very first pair of shoes to my own measurements.

It wasn’t the easiest training, even for the most passionate, but Maurice knew just the right words to explain both the gestures and the magic it takes to create a very special shoe. Thanks to him, I knew that my dreams were not in vain. For ten years, he mentored me and shared his immense experience and unique knowledge with me, bringing to life the history of shoemaking from the earliest shoes created to modern day designs.

As we (the apprentices) worked away, seated on our atelier stools, our backs bent over our work, in this surreal atelier space, Maurice cajoled us with stories of his life and his experiences; from his arrival in Paris,; his debut as an apprentice; to his experience working in a factory and then his work with the prestigious French design houses. In the early days of his career, hundreds of shoemakers opened workshops in the Parisian quarter surrounding Rue de Belleville.  And for many decades, this small atelier on 83 Rue de Belleville, welcomed many fortunate apprentices who learned from Master Maurice Arnoult.  

 

. 1994-2004 Bespoke shoe-making under the tutelage of M. Arnoult

. 1999-2004 AFPIC Cholet: Technical shoe design and construction studies

. 1985-1988 E.S.A.M. (Ecole Supérieure d’Art Moderne):  Design and drawing

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Creative influences along the way

During the period 1992 to 2009, I was very lucky to meet several people, who nourished and helped me to build on my knowledge and skills in bespoke shoe-making.

Through my work as a designer I was able to travel extensively, I worked with many exceptional designers and shoemakers and was able to witness their singular talents for their craft.

LC. Waïkiki / BGI Pagoda

Maurice Arnoult Bottier

Double A / Isabel Marant

Arche / Ets Thierry / Sacair / Eram / Groupe Vivarté

Aris Bottier / Altan Bottier