Pierre Corthay, the artistic director of the Maison Corthay, talks about his passion for his craft.
Pierre Corthay discovered a love of leather as a child.
“The material combined a lot of things—first the sensuality when you touch it, then the smell, the versatility, its softness. I truly love everything about leather,” says the artistic director of Maison Corthay, the luxury men’s footwear company.
His early fascination with the material prompted him to join the prestigious French guild of craftsmen, Les Compagnons du Devoir, to develop his leathermaking skills. He spent six years working as an apprentice, honing his craft and travelling all over France to different workshops. Learning to make shoes requires being skilled in four areas: wood-carving, patternwork, stitching and rubber but Corthay says the most important thing he learned from that time was “patience and humility”.
It is this passion for quality craftsmanship that Corthay brings to his eponymous shoe range, which he started after spending time at Berluti and John Lobb.
“I really wanted Maison Corthay to be the point where creativity, aesthetics and skill meet,” he says.
“I like to create a fascinating fusion between traditional know-how and sophisticated avant garde dressing.” Corthay is the only men’s shoemaker to have been awarded the title Maitre d’Art (Master of Art), a distinction bestowed upon him by the French Ministry of Culture in 2009.
Though the company has an extensive ready-to-wear line, the bespoke shoe service is the root of the business. A bespoke shoe from Maison Corthay takes six to seven months to produce. A craftsman measures the client’s feet and returns three months later with a trial shoe, which can be further adjusted to accommodate for fit and comfort. Another three months is required for the finished product. After the first fitting, the customer’s measurements are then archived in Paris, making it easier to produce other pairs in the future. Celebrity fans of the brand’s colourful and exquisitely made footwear include Clive Owen, Cate Blanchett and Rafael Nadal.
The brand’s main market is Asia but the Middle East is quickly growing. “I feel our Middle Eastern clientele is very sophisticated and understands our products and the fact that we are different. The bespoke part is very appealing as it is an opportunity to have a unique made-to-measure product, the ultimate luxury,” says Corthay.
The brand’s Dune sandal is an interpretation of a traditional men’s sandal from the region, composed of 100 per cent camel leather sourced from Abu Dhabi.
“We are the first French luxury brand to source camel leather from the Middle East and create unique products,” says Corthay. “That makes me very proud and it is my way of paying a tribute to the region.”