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.