Whilst our steps lead us to wisdom, our shoes are what give our steps their shape. Aged 16 in the Champs Élysées district of Paris, my steps led me astray rather than anything else, in search of tortuous paths and chance adventures. The Carvil shop window seemed to have been there for all eternity and longer, and it called out to me.
This was an era in which Lebanese businessmen wearing Smalto encountered the Filipacchi brothers engrossed in the latest edition of Lui magazine, whilst an African Head of State in a safari suit and heelpieces dined on fondue at the ‘Val d’Isère’ restaurant. The area was an inspiration: Belmondo from A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) often wandered these streets, a Gauloise cigarette dangling from his lip meandering along wherever took his fancy.
Carvil spoke to two kinds of people who were already slugging it out within me: the kind of person who liked bright shiny things, and the kind of person who looked for meaning. In those days, I used to love it when someone brought out for me a pair of Derby shoes that were as streamlined as a diplomat’s car. I would stroke the rounded curve of the arch between the heel and the sole and my gaze would linger lovingly before these glossy evening shoes taking in their dimension and their shine, moving onto creamy ankle boots of glove-skin leather, and loafers lounging on bare feet that seemed to have transported Gene Kelly to the edge of the Tuileries district of Paris.
Carvil shoes have been with me at every stage of my life – I should perhaps say ‘our’ lives as I have so many friends that have caught the Carvil bug. There’s the occasion when an elderly uncle gives you a pair, then another time when you make a miraculous discovery during a second-hand sale, then another time when you get behind the shop window. On a day like that, you get yourself more than an item of finery – after all, you’re not just satisfying a whim or slaking a consumerist thirst for something. You’re acquiring an air of nobility for yourself, an air of self-confidence, you’re streamlining. And then you start to look at what you used to call your ‘wardrobe’ with an entirely new eye.
There is so much more of Paris in a Carvil shoe than in any other ‘luxury’ shoe brand. In contrast to the heaviness of the English shoemaker, where somewhere during the 80s the man about town’s foot seems to have got bigger, Carvil has always stood up for its own creation that speaks of a more chippy elegance.
Carvil shoes are for feet that amble around, for feet that balance at the end of a leg propped up on the knee whilst chatting amiably.
They are for feet that walk on the floors of nightclubs, and most importantly for feet that don’t want to do anything too exhausting. Carvil is ‘City’, it is eternal and seems like it is effortless, rather like the London hairdresser who does what he does with a gentleman’s locks without being told what to do.
Carvil is the righteous shoe, the one that does you proud. The customers are discreet, though their names are in lights too. But this is not what matters to me: if Carvil has followed them, and if they have returned the favour, then it simply has to be because those customers wouldn’t desert Carvil for anyone else. One single store was all it took to create a legend with its authenticity, its continuity and its longevity that is the privilege of genuine brands.
I am one of the faithful ones, and maybe this is because I ask more of Carvil than I do of other brands, and because I have always had confidence in the respondent. As I write these words, I am toying with a loafer on the end of my foot. As I break between sentences I cast my eye quickly over to the loafer, and I am reassured that it is worth it. As I finish my piece and as I slide back into the shoes of my dreams I then find myself right here, with my lady, on the pavements of the most beautiful city in the world with no particular place to go, but all ready to go. Carvil for ever.