Maison Corthay is an exemplar of savoir-faire. They have an eye for design, mischievously manipulating tinctures with pleasingly adroit outcomes. These are shoes par excellence.
As I grow older, my vocabulary continues to expand. In recent times, French terms such as perlage, anglage, dressage and Côtes de Genève have crept into my professional life writing about wristwatches.
Like many of my compatriots my grasp of foreign languages is woefully poor. It was, therefore, humbling to hear yet another French term absent from my daily lexicon, glaçage.
Glaçage or glazing is the skillful mixture of cream, polish, water and dyes. The result is a shoe possessed with variegated hues. A suave businessman pleasingly attired in a bespoke suit does not have to settle for mundane black. Select the seemingly black, in discreet purple. A subtle progression through tasty shades of aubergine blush, the chosen chaussures distinguish the man from his compatriots.
Maison Corthay is an exemplar of savoir-faire. They have an eye for design, mischievously manipulating tinctures with pleasingly adroit outcomes. However, beneath the veneer of beauty is an intrinsic expertise and quality absent from the mass-produced.
Pierre Corthay, founder and artistic director, opened his first workshop on Rue Volney, near the Place Vendôme after a successful career working for John Lobb and Berluti. Pierre’s younger brother, Cristophe, joined the company later and both members of the Corthay family remain “hands on” to the current day. Pierre crafted his becoming bespoke shoes but relied on a third party to produce his Ready to Wear models. However, Pierre, a perfectionist, did not feel these models met his exacting standards and in 2003 brought the Ready to Wear shoes under the same roof as his bespoke models.
The business has continued to grow, in no small part to an order placed by the Sultan of Brunei for 150 pairs of bespoke shoes in 1995 after he read an editorial feature in the Herald Tribune. CEO, Xavier de Royere, a key catalyst for the brand’s recent growth, joined Corthay in 2010 from luxury giant LVMH. De Royere who was first introduced to Corthay by a friend, both share a passion for wine, art and beautiful vintage cars and now celebrate recent openings of two further Maisons in Dubai and Hong Kong.
In December 2011, Maison Corthay opened it’s prestigious UK store on London’s Motcomb Street in Knightsbridge. It is here I find myself in the company of Boutique Manager and Maître Patineur, Thomas.
Ready to Wear
The would-be purchaser may choose to select, “Ready to Wear”. These are off-the peg shoes, taken from stock. They harness peerless craftsmanship. Soles feature couture welting, double stitched, proffering a slightly stiffer character than Italian shoes.
Clients are presented with a myriad of colours to choose from. Those of conservative temperament are served with English style shoes with rounded toe. However, I personally adore the avant-garde character of the tailored styled pointy shoes.
Laces are deliberately located to sit below the hem, visible and flirtatious. Indeed, those seeking a playful presence may select laces of contrasting shade.
Brightly coloured piping, exuberantly extrovert, can satisfy the needs of the most ambitious style dandy.
All materials originate from France. The finest box calf leather oozes luxury in a deliciously decadent way.
Made to Order
Personal expression can be accommodated without tasting the full ristretto of bespoke and by default, the pricing that this would attract.
Shoes are made on a standard last. However, personalisation can include choice of colours, piping colours, sole material and even the shade of the lining.
Bespoke or Sur-Mesure
The epitome of fine shoes has to be bespoke. Whilst all Corthay shoes are handmade, sur-mesure is the ultimate expression of personal taste. The customer can even specify the height of the heel.
Pierre or Christophe travel the globe meeting clients and taking exacting measurements of the foot to create a wooden facsimile called a last. This is used to form the shoe upon.
The fit is very important. The brothers do not accept compromise.
The sole is hand welted using threads made in house.
The skill and expertise of the artisans from the Maison is pleasingly practised. Observe the fruit of their patient craft and you will concur the outcomes are spellbindingly sublime. Like a Great Master, Pierre Corthay signs his name on the inside of the shoes.
I found myself drawn to the leather belts and wallets. Those seeking a co-ordinated look can match their shoes and belt in judicious concert.
The shoes are complete but the silverware must be polished as any good butler knows.
Cream is applied to the shoes sparingly with a dedicated cloth. A film of polish is applied to the shoe with a light touch and separate cloth.
Only a light application of polish should be applied to the majority of the shoe, the exception being the heel and toe. Excessive polish applied to the shoe can result in cracking.
Patient polishing with rapid, light strokes produces delightful dividends. The variables of moisture and temperature differentiate the amateur from the Maître Patineur.
A tip from my host was to perform glaçage in warm weather, placing shoes in a bag within the fridge afterwards. On removing the shoes from the fridge the following day, a ladies stocking should be used to achieve a mirror-like finish.
Those seeking a spectral range of blue or orange need the expertise of Thomas to acquire the magnificent patina he has mastered. However, a select few are invited to a Soiree Glaçage to learn some of the skills which are beautifully distilled on Motcombe Street.
Those seeking quality and longevity clearly do not need to dispense with style. Maison Corthay offer fine leather, expertly manipulated to adorn the most fortunate feet.
The shoes confer a mode of expression which would be difficult to usurp. They ooze Parisian poise and elegance. The bespoke shoes can counter those ills such as pronation or supination.
However, most of all they eloquently convey the vogue like deportment found with a couture clad debutante.