A history of men

 

Founded in 1952 by Henri Lederman, Carvil set up its premises on Rue Royale and then the same year opened its store on Rue Pierre Charron – right in the heart of the Parisian golden triangle. Trendy Parisians of the post-war years were listening to Boris Vian, Salvador and Danny Boy, while a massive hit burst onto the cinema screens in the form of the film Les Tontons flingueurs (‘Crooks in Clover’). The first Carvil loafer, the ‘Triomphe’, was immortalised by Lino Ventura in the script written by Michel Audiard, and the New Wave had arrived – with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon crossing paths in the film Sois belle et tais-toi (‘Be Beautiful but Shut Up’).

In the early 60s as the loafer was at the height of fashion, Delon was thrilling Hollywood with Plein Soleil (an earlier version of ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’), in which Tom Ripley’s class and character launched the actor’s career. Upon his feet was the Carvil, a loafer with a dash of character that was a talisman item of clothing for the actor. In 1966, the playboys of Jacques Dutronc were suited at Cardin and booted at Carvil, which was at the height of its popularity.

Right around this time, Henri Lederman designed the Dylan ankle boot as a homage to the artist, in a black velvet and zipped-up version. Casual in jeans, leather vest and black glasses, the Carvil shoe added a dash of impertinence to an elegant look. The singer Claude François, who had his shoes hand-made, popularised the white gloss version on the stage with heels raised by five centimetres. Following in his footsteps were the singers Joe Dassin and Alain Chamfort for his first major stadium show. This is a shoe whose place in history has extended to the coffin of the singer Mike Brant, who was dressed in a pair of white ankle boots for the occasion.

The adulation was overseas too. In 1968, the harmonica man in Once Upon a Time in the West was called Charles Bronson. The star of Sergio Leone’s Western toured the world wearing Carvil, and Cary Grant also wore Carvil loafers that he bought in Paris.

In the early 80s, the Carvil maison changed hands. The publicity illustration that went up in Paris was designed by Giacometti and Dumoulin, and it referenced the defining lines of David Bowie and his China Girl. Over on Rue Pierre Charron, the legends continued to parade through. The actor Coluche wore tailor-made Carvil Opéra shoes – low-fronted violet velvet evening shoes that became collector’s items. Then there were the shoes of the Bouglione circus family who ordered coloured shoes, and then the shoes that belonged to the music producer Eddy Barclay who got shoes for all his guests at his so-called white nights. Even the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, made an appearance in the store in Paris’s 8th arrondissement.

Carvil had a low-key first decade of the new millennium, with Frédérique Picard at the helm. The store assumed a more discreet profile, and the business continued to be passed from father to son. Faithful customers, the neo-Dandy sort, came along to seek out the 26909 or the 26907 – brogues that were perfectly suited to contemporary tastes. They also came along for ankle boots, court shoes for elegant evenings out, and winter or summer slip-ons. The world of cinema and of music remained faithful to Carvil. Ben Harper got his bottle green lambskin ankle boots here, and Ariel Wizman and Edouard Baer boost their collections here every season, whilst the performers Stromae and Benjamin Biolay are donning them now.

67 rue Pierre Charron

 

The marque’s first models emerged from the workshops of Rossetti and Testoni, suppliers to Carvil during the 50s. The first Carvil store opened at 22 Rue Royale in Paris, and a few months later the premises at 67 Rue de Charron became the house flagship store. Later came Mabillon, the headquarters of the dandy figures of the Saint-Germain district of Paris, then Avenue Paul Doumer in the 16th arrondissement, and then Avenue Victor Hugo.

The 67 Rue Pierre Charron store is the only place that Carvil has taken with it into the 21st Century, and it tells the stories of Jan Deheer, the living memory of the house. In forty years he has seen his favourite ‘Tontons Flingueurs’ – ‘Crooks in Clover’  – with the actor Blier leading the pack trailed closely by playboys and the singer Dutronc, then Heads of State, and also their sons for whom special orders were filled  – as well as exes and new dandies.

The only Carvil store in the world donned a new look in early 2016 that mines its reference domains of music and cinema all over again, sporting a military grey look. The scene was set by the decorator Gilles Viard to whom we also owe the presentation of the Sœur store in Paris, and the new store bears the hallmarks of seventies rock incorporating crocodile skin effects, low black lacquer tables, leopard-look partition screens and blue airport-style armchairs.

To every season there is an artist, and for his first project within the Carvil firmament, the new Artistic Director Frank Charriaut worked with the English gallery owner Jonathan Kugel, who exhibited the sculptural skeletons of James Webster until the end of February. Skulls of walruses, stags and storks made of porcelain struck a pose on pillars of concrete and steel. It was a monumental collection reminiscent of the temple guardians of ancient Egypt and collector’s idols.

Other artistic exhibitions are to follow, along with exhibitions of precious iconic objects and mechanical objects.

The collection

 

Pairs of Carvil shoes continue to come out of the studios dedicated to bella fatto a mano in Vigevano. The fine quality of the blake-sewn workmanship that is associated with the best French and Italian leathers are the hallmarks of a craftsman heritage and expertise that endures through the years.

For the spring-summer 2016 collection, Frank Charriaut has re-sized the Dylan boots in beautiful leather, using Italian velvet veal or lambskin. The line is gentler, the varieties offered up a little more rock-style in blue, purple or black velvet, and the look is that of a dandy in ankle boots with calfskin and tassels. The label Carvil Pour Monsieur is stamped on the interior soles of the shoes.

The success of the Triomphe gave rise to new varieties of the loafer with a more slender profile, tassels firmly attached. To the classic black calf leather shoe were added orange-hued velvets, as well as camel and white colours. The Biarritz version in kangaroo or peccary gave the shoe a new softness while the Moceau classic was given a new youth, and the varnish of the Victoire was given a feel of fashion with a hint of impertinence.

Slip-ons are the flagship line at Carvil. They bring the comfort of a slipper shoe to the elegance of the loafer. The Madeleine is dressed in red, wine and blue velvet, and the Matignon in violet and vintage pink. There’s a liberty of tone too, embodied in the birth of new models of Derby shoes with black double or single buckle and blue velvet, and the creation of the first Carvil sneaker.