Les grands noms de la chaussure Française.

The big names in French footwear.

During my studies at ESMOD Lyon , I remember a school trip to Romans-sur-Isère, known mainly for its shoe industry since 1840. The first shoe brand will be created there and called “UNIC” by Joseph Fénestrier, its creator at the end of the XIXth century.

Brands that are still well known today, such as:

Charles Jourdan, Stéphane Kélian as well as Robert Clergerie . For the occasion, I wanted to talk to you about these renowned brands of which France can be proud as much for its quality of execution as for its style.

In France, men buy on average a little less than three pairs of shoes per year, women a little less than six, the latter winning the European prize for the biggest consumers. They are second in the world , behind the Americans.

In a consumer society where quantity over quality is advocated, as well as open competition, we have seen our heritage gradually disappear. The takeover of companies by large financial groups (ex: C.Jourdan) has slowly destroyed the magic of brands and their emotional capital, to the point of condemning them to certain death. Let's look back on 100 years of history, starting with:


One of my favorite designers, I have a few vintage pairs in my wardrobe that I consider to be a real treasure of history.

The shoe brand was invented in 1921 , by Charles Jourdan and will be taken over after the Second World War by his two sons. He was the inventor of the pump, the shape of which is considered to be the most comfortable to this day. Charles Jourdan is in the Pantheon of the greatest shoemakers of the 20th century, alongside Roger Vivier and André Pérugia , inspiring like them illustrious contemporary creators such as Christian Louboutin, Stéphane Kélian, and Robert Clergerie.

Other than the aesthetics and quality of Charles Jourdan shoes, we will also remember the famous advertising campaigns created by one of the greatest photographers Guy Bourdin.

Guy Bourdin was a trendsetter in the fashion world. He took his profession as a fashion photographer to a higher level: selling clothes, accessories and promoting beauty with an artistic direction based on provocation and intensity. In short, create an image and a message that the reader will remember! An advertiser, both creative and strategic.

Here are some photos from the series “the walking legs” . These prints were created during a trip between London and Brighton. Guy Bourdin took his son with him in a black Cadillac, a bag of Charles Jourdan shoes and pairs of mannequin legs in his trunk. So you just had to have the idea, because the result is breathtaking. Unusual landscapes for a rendering suggesting the silhouette of a woman wearing sublime shoes.

Charles Jourdan by Guy Bourdin advertising campaign 70s


Roger Vivier shares the creation of the Stiletto Heel with Charles Jourdan. After studying sculpture at the fine arts school, he made the shoe a real work of art!

Among her famous clients, we will remember A va Gardner, Marlene Dietrich, Queen Elizabeth II for whom he created a pair of shoes with (rubies) for his coronation, matching his crown in 1953.

Above are the shoes of Elizabeth II, Queen of England.

He was the first to create the very first shoe collection for Dior. He will be its creator for more than 10 years with the unique honor of adding his name to that of Dior as a signature. Other famous actresses will wear her shoes like Catherine Deneuve in “Belle de Jour” as well as BB with his black vinyl boots with bold reflections, which Bardot will take to sing on his Harley-Davidson.

In 1959, he was the first to democratize ready-to-wear shoes with collections manufactured industrially by Charles Jourdan.

One of his famous sentences: “Making a sophisticated collection at affordable prices fascinates me.” For me, the more difficult it is, the more joyful it is.”

Roger Vivier

He was the mentor of the equally famous today Christian Louboutin. Vivier's creations are exhibited at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the United States, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in the United Kingdom and at the Musée du Costume et de la Mode at the Louvre in France, a museum which has a Roger Vivier collection since 1987

Find the creations of Roger Vivier  here .


The president's shoe! The little anecdote comes from Michelle Obama who fell in love with a pair of thigh-high boots in the store, but not in size 41. As a result, the Romans factory will make a pair especially for her.

Originally from Hauts-de-Seine, Robert first tried shoes at the age of 9. 1943, leaving for a delivery with his grocer father to a shoemaker in Argens, he tasted his first Proust madeleine.

“I was amazed by all these awls, pliers and little hammers hanging on the wall... Bootmakers have so many! Above all, I still have to engrave a pair of shoes that he made for my mother when the war deprived us of raw materials: a pair with closed toes and an open back, in burgundy kid with a wedge heel.”

Robert Clergerie

Robert Clergerie was trained at Charles Jourdan by son Jourdan. From Lauren Bacall to Bianca Jagger to Madonna, the biggest stars have had Clergerie on their feet, when the brand was at the height of its glory.

Robert Clergerie launched a first collection in his name in the winter of 1981 : called Paris, Paco and Palma, three flat and boldly designed models for men met with immediate success.

He is a bit like the inventor of Derby which it will adapt to women. His creations are very inspired by men's wardrobe.

When its founder, Robert Clergerie, sold his company to the Chinese investment fund Fung in 2011, he took care to lock down manufacturing in his factory in Romans-sur-Isère.

“The boss of an SME is someone who does not necessarily have to be good everywhere, but who must above all be bad nowhere!”

Find Clergerie creations here .


Perugia was born in Nice in 1893 to parents from Italy. He grew up in a shoemaker's family and started working at the age of 14. André Perugia was the first shoe designer to achieve fame.

The creator André Perugia Pin this image on Pinterest

He opened a boutique at the age of 16 and quickly made a name for himself, devising new heel-like uppers for shoes that would soon surpass his father's designs in artistry, daring and price. However, money was never a motivator for him.

The women of the world who flock to the Côte D'Azur every winter are dazzled by the creations of this superb man, full of vivacity and charm. But it was his meeting with the great couturier Paul Poiret that ensured his success in 1913 when the couturier discovered the young shoemaker's creations in a window at the Hotel Negresco.

At the end of the First World War, Poiret asked him to create models for his collections. Perugia, who has since opened a Faubourg St-Honoré boutique, accepts. Among her clients are stars of the Folies Bergères and film actresses. They expect their shoes to reflect their glamor on stage. Perugia does not disappoint them. His custom-made models are almost authentic portraits of his clients.

Always curious, he created shoes of astonishing originality for 50 years, successively associating with I. Miller and Charles Jourdan. He talks to his shoes, and his reputation as an eccentric is added to that of a genius. In his book From Eve to Rita Hayworth, he explains that a woman's feet are the secret revealer of her personality. Of course, if these feet are wearing Perugia sandals, the observer will conclude that for this woman seduction is priceless.

“The richest woman in the world couldn't pay me enough to make her an ugly shoe”


When we mention the name Kélian, I immediately think of famous braiding in leather which sets it apart from other shoe designers.

I remember my first fashion crush at 18 years old. It was a pair of Stéphane Kelian pumps in brown python leather that I was drooling over in the window of the Montpellier store. After a month on the pasta diet, these were mine!

Even today they are in perfect condition and incredibly comfortable, my little favorites <3.

The story of the Stéphane Kelian brand is above all a family story, that of 3 brothers (Georges, Gérard and Stephane), sons of an Armenian dyer who fled the Ottoman Empire to arrive in France.

Originally, the family business made men's shoes with the particularity of top hand braided on shape . This modest artisanal workshop employed five people and produced around twenty pairs of shoes per day.

The first collection of “fashion” shoes for women under the “Stéphane Kélian” brand is presented in 1977 . The success was immediate and the brand established itself. A first store opened in Paris the following year. It marks the start of the new commercial policy.

To cope with commercial development, a second factory opened in 1979. Production reached 250,000 pairs of shoes per year and employed four hundred people .

Stéphane Kélian is one of the major fashion names. Its specificity, largely mastered, resided in this unique and exclusive way of treating the braid .
Kélian braided leather, with a high-quality finish and patina rendering of high technicality and great elegance, offers an exceptional product that has never been equaled.

Find the creations of Stéphane Kelian here .


Industry French In recent years, the shoe industry has suffered the head-on shock of competition from producing countries with low labor costs, despite significant growth in the market. Entry-level products are now almost all imported and the maintenance of a few French companies in the mid-range relies on the relocation of a significant part of manufacturing. In the high-end and luxury, France retains some emblematic companies; However, a large part of women's luxury goods has been entrusted by major clients to Italian subcontracting.

The current economic context, which is foreseeable in the medium term, tends, in fact, to enhance the competitive advantages of French production:

  • For the consumer. We are experiencing a moment of rupture which is not only economic. The consumer very deeply yearns for new modes of consumption. Sustainability, beauty, well-being, ethics, emotion, individualization but also connection are new keys to success. At the same time, constrained purchasing power will impose new attention to the quality/price ratio.
  • With regard to production , future developments (increase in wages in emerging countries, increase in transport costs, difficulties in controlling deadlines and quality, sustainability requirements, etc.) will leave a more important place for French industry in the value chain. The fact remains that this position will depend primarily on the quality of French products (creation, design, innovation), good control of production, marketing and commercialization parameters and the quality of service. Article reference : here .

Some brands like Paraboot, Heschung, Repetto , defend their French know-how. But locally there are many other brands, espadrilles for example, or children's shoes, which have this specificity. The French shoe federation has therefore mapped French companies in the sector. This card allows, among other things, access to the online stores of many French designers.

As always, I leave you with a “Second hand” selection of the most beautiful pairs of vintage shoes! Have a nice day Narcissus.

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