Good dressing starts with what you put on your feet. A smart outfit can be destroyed by shabby footwear, while sharp shoes may save the day if your suit’s a bit worn out. And a downright fancy pair of shoes can give you instant playboy status. Such is the case with the remarkable bespoke and ready-to-wear products of Pierre Corthay, a renowned French shoemaker who recently opened his debut London boutique in Belgravia.
The first thing you notice in the tiny shop on Motcomb St is the workbench laid out with jar after jar of different coloured dyes and polishes. Here Thomas, the shop’s “maitre patineur” – an artisan polisher and colourist – works to invest shoes with effervescent colour and sheen, toned to the preferences of the buyer – be that gleaming green or shocking purple. Once a month Thomas even hosts a get together with a handful of invited customers for an evening of “glaçage” – fine polishing to you and me.
“It’s for passionate people, people who want something incredible in shape, colour and quality – it’s something rare and special that you’re buying,” says store manager Francois Pourcher. His statement is reflected in the prices, which range from £845 for ready-to-wear shoes and up well into the thousands for bespoke. For that you’re getting some of the finest shoes in the world, painstakingly made from leather that spends a minimum of a year in the tanning basin.
Okay, there’s a certain leap of faith required here. In the UK flamboyancy and footwear don’t generally go together, but on the continent things are different. In the sun-kissed world of the Italian dandy and French boulevardier, shoes with colour and ostentation are just the job – call it Riviera style or Continental chic.
Celebrities, millionaires and fashion insiders embrace the look, as do – increasingly – the denizens of Mayfair and Knightsbridge. They may not be for the office, but for looking exceptional on a glamorous night out or trip abroad, they’re unbeatable.
“We are artisans first, this is the core,” says Pourcher. “The shoes have that elegance and classicism, but we add to this fantasy and originality.”