His authentic heart welcomes each customer as a unique person, embracing their deepest desires entrusted to the timeless elegance of his independent and family-owned house. In his boutique of the quartier de la Bourse district of Paris, Xavier Aubercy is like a spring in rebirth; a sparkling man with an extreme finesse, curious about others and finding his pleasure in a people business and creation job. His shoes have this of exceptional, as they make customers happier and confident and give passionate craftsmen the opportunity to transmit the gestures and values of excellence. It is also a school of life to develop humanly, for in every encounter, beautiful shoes become an excuse for a deeper labour of love.
Shoemaker from father to son
The current shop of rue Vivienne was created in 1935 by André and Renée Aubercy, his grandparents. Xavier is almost born in it. “The day of my birth, my mother told me that she closed the evening, and I was born a few hours later. All my life has since turned around the shop and its customers!” Because the whole Paris has rushed into this shop, since the grandfather decided in 1950 to make tailor-made shoes alongside the biggest Londoners boots. At that time, he frequented the dandy millionaire Arturo Lopez and shared with him the taste for beauty, learning the codes of high society without denying his origins. “He was born in Auvergne and had lived in difficult social conditions. I have the weakness to believe that Arturo Lopez loved in him the richness of his being.” Very early, he went up to Paris to join Joinville Squadron and became a great sportsman. He then gave classes of gymnastics to individuals when he met his future wife, who worked in the shoe. “It was the immediate thunderbolt that changed his life”. Out of love, he became a bootmaker, and by dint of hard work and audacity, he became one of the references of his time.
His father and mother will take over the business in 1970, keeping this quest for excellence in materials, know-how and a classic and elegant style. “Then my father left to train a year in Italy and a year in London; He then brought the best of these two schools: English rigor and Italian creativity.” Philippe Aubercy will also reorganize the artisan workshops to offer made-to-order shoes and bespoke models. And above all, he will keep the spirit of service and quality that has always been the signature of the House. Xavier was reared in the tradition of love and respect for well-done work, happily modeling his life on that of his grandfather. “One of my favorite childhood memories are those restaurants I visited during my holidays in Auvergne. Managers used to serve their customers in such a special and compassionate way”. At one point, Xavier Aubercy trained himself in psychoanalysis and spent three years of his life “contemplating the strength to get up again in every human being”. He will then take over the family business to make the deep values endure and bring his own originality.
The excellence of the shoe
At Aubercy, craftsmanship is preserved in the purest tradition and the shoes are created with the same requirements of technicality, quality and rigor as 50 years ago. “There are still between 300 and 400 operations spread over 2 to 3 months of work to obtain a ready-to-wear shoe.” And at all stages: the choice of shape, material, color, type of seams, shapes of soles, pits, finishes and linings, customization is possible because it’s important for the Master-Bootmaker to propose a unique shoe for each customer, responding to all their desires. “As this shoe created especially for a Malawi Consul with the 3 colors of the country flag and a hand-drawn punch to take back the sun, emblem of the country.”
Therefore, it is fundamental to collect the desire of the customer and answer to their desires. Very often, combinations can be made with the existing models, “but we can get out old models from the archives, or draw from a blank page the shoe of their dreams.” Then, the artisan will work on the measurement that leads to a wooden shape, until the sewing patronage with the choice of the leathers selected among the finest hides and colors (more than 50 available). Then, it is the fitting time with the manufacture of a temporary model, followed by the final model. There, the upper part of the shoe is sewed by hand with the soles, the heels and the reinforcements. The finishing of the leather gallons inside the shoe is also fully hand sewn with the choice of the different techniques of sewing (Blake, Goodyear or Norwegian techniques) depending on the type of shoe desired by the customer. “It is the high qualification of our craftsmen that makes the difference, because their great experience allows a pure gesture and gives our shoes a little extra character and soul.” To have perfect finishes, you also have to give yourself the time to do it: two hours of sewing by hand, where two minutes were enough if the task was automated on a machine. At Aubercy, they even pull the leather hides with patience and meticulousness for two hours instead of the 10 seconds machine. “The curve will not be the same ! Somewhere, they have a memory and an its elasticity must be respected. That’s why a pair of Aubercy shoes will have a lifetime six times higher than normal shoes.”
“The job of shoemaker is to glove the foot.” And it is so important for a man to express his refinement and elegance in this part of his body. Nearly 1,000 models are made each year with aesthetic lines of great finesse. Aubercy proposes timeless models, which withstands the changing fashions of time, such as great classics : Richelieu, Derby or Moccasin, interpreted in the unique style of the house. Xavier Aubercy also provides more relaxed lines like Weekend specially designed “for moments of elegance on weekends”, or Etretat, ultra-soft moccasins using colorful hues. He even proposes the making of special shoes with exotic skins for collectors of rare shoes. According to his inspiration of the moment, he also creates new models. Like the Lupine, a moccasin with a leg designed like a mask, which has become the emblematic model of the house. “This model came from a childhood memory because at the age of 8 I had come across a German photographer who had taken pictures of the Venice Carnival, and I had dreamed for 30 years of going there one day”. Or else this model shifted with a lacing completely fool. “I woke up one night, inspired by the watch of a great Swiss watchmaker who had the idea to blow up the hour hands instead of making them follow at a steady pace. And I drew the crazy laces in one go!”
The elegance at Aubercy is also the meeting with the artisans that produces unique shoes made to create beautiful encounters too. Such is the spirit of the house with a profession received and exercised as a call to give pleasure and realize the customers’ dreams. “When I see sparks in the eyes of my clients, I am happy and it is my duty to always amaze them. My challenge is therefore to continue to touch them, where some have already had everything and discovered a lot.” This richness of the heart also allows to see beyond appearances; Perceiving the work of the craftsmen all their small sacrifices made with love; but also to all kind of human beauty, like his grand-father did. “At age 75, he continued to give up his place on the bus to a lady and wanted to learn constantly and grow humanly. It is this humanity that touches me most in my job.”
A pleasure to be shared
The family spirit is lived fully in this house of tradition, with particular consideration to everyone and every person is given the possibility to fulfil his or her potential flourish. “One of our employees stayed with us 46 years, working in the shop !” Each visitor is also treated with the same kindness and quality of welcoming, and Xavier Aubercy is also amazed by this simplicity shared by his own customers. “Whether celebrities or heads of State, they behave naturally and have a benevolent attitude with everyone, without making any distinction between employers and workers. And this gives you wings and is unbelievably rewarding !”
And for a pleasure that is renewed every day, the house also prepares its future developments. A new website is under construction and a private space will be arranged to fulfil special expectations. Then this project that is particularly important to him. That of setting up a workshop in France (after 35 years in Italy), to have the craftsmen as close as possible to the shop. “For when I am in my office and hear the bootmaker putting on his shoes, I am in heaven!”
Finally, the Aubercy house would be like a woman whom one marries, putting an end to his love adventures for a path of fidelity. Because there is something different here ; balanced, precious and anachronistic at the same time, which makes the beauty of an exceptional shoe. And a lot of love that is given, reminding us that the shoes signed Aubercy are made for pleasure and happiness.
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on September 29, 2017, in Paris
Link to Maison Aubercy website
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