Aubercy Shoes: Interview With Legendary Xavier Aubercy
I always had great respect for Aubercy Shoes from the moment my favorite journalists spoke about them.
You can imagine my happiness when I actually reached out to them and they agreed to answer my interview questions!
This article took a longer time than anticipated, but I am very excited it’s finally here.
Both you and me will find out more about Aubercy Shoes today.
One Of France’s Finest Shoemaking Houses
When I started my shoemaking journey years ago, I had to rely on experience and reputation.
Two of the catalysts behind my discovery of Aubercy Shoes (and many other brands) were Justin Fitzpatrick and Hugo Jacomet.
Their descriptions picked my interest about the brand and its heritage which is truly rich.
I ended up messaging them on Instagram and spoke with Raphaël who was kind enough to guide me through this and take care of the interview.
Aubercy’s unique styling of their shoes always picked my interest even though in certain cases it is unorthodox or too bold.
Besides their RTW/MTO selection, the Aubercy Bespoke experience seems to be one of the best.
Let’s find out more about them today.
1. Hello Xavier! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m Xavier Aubercy, a third-generation Parisian shoemaker.
We’re open since 1935, so I think it’s fair to say that shoes are part of my DNA. My mother almost gave birth to me in the shop! (he laughs).
2. The Maison Aubercy has a long history dating back to 1935. How does carrying on your grandparents’ legacy feel like?
The Maison is first and foremost a declaration of love from my grandfather André to my grandmother Renée. Then came my parents as heads of Aubercy, Odette and Philippe.
I’m conveying this love beyond our family legacy today, as I’m designing the shoes my heart desires.
My love for the Maison Aubercy is also a committed and deep devotion. I’m dedicated to keep my craft alive.
“There’s only one luxury: uniting men.” You’ll find pleasure, love, and humanity in our shoes.
3. I very much like this quote! Which values did you grow up with, and how does it reflect on your shoes?
We are still an independent family business; we always wished to remain so. As my grandfather André would say, “All that’s beautiful is hidden to the eye.”
After school I would go back to rue Vivienne to my parents. I would observe and admire the customers: they were lovers of Beauty and Excellence.
These customers only chose the best; it powered my curiosity and I ended up fascinated by them.
Their world was made of a wide range of pleasures such as oenology, gastronomy, cars, and photography – and I made these pleasures mine.
I was lucky enough to meet extraordinary clients. Their politeness and sophistication drove me to carry on this fascinating legacy.
Thanks to my grandfather André, the founder, and my father Philippe, I am attached to family values.
My first commitment is, and has always been, to please the ones who love beautiful shoes.
My goal is to share the love we have for our craft and to please our customers.
To me, Aubercy is synonymous with loving our craft, demanding the highest quality, and satisfying our elegant customers.
4. Baron de Redé and Arturo Lopez are among the personalities that influenced the designs of the Maison Aubercy. Is that true? How can we see it today?
My grandfather was a friend of Arturo Lopez – a man of great human qualities.
He shared with him all the art de vivre of the time, back when everything was about beauty, refinement, and sophistication. He was deeply, sincerely devoted to his friend.
My grandfather and Arturo were great friends, meeting at de Redé’s when he was staying at the Lambert mansion.
Arturo would park his Rolls Royce in the middle of the street to pick up my grandfather and father and bring them to the Ritz. What a time! (he laughs).
They wanted to share this art de vivre that had to do with every aspect of life. So naturally, Arturo ordered shoes to my grandfather.
This allowed him to start our first lasts such as the famous A7, a chiseled toe last. My father Philippe inherited this art de vivre that goes way beyond shoes.
When I was a child, when we would travel to Italy, my father would say that I had to behave because people wouldn’t see a boy, they would see a Frenchman, and that I was representing France.
My grandfather was a man of convictions. He could kick out of the shop any television celebrity if they weren’t conducting themselves with dignity.
We sell shoes that are made by excellent craftsmen and, to him, we must behave accordingly. He wouldn’t tolerate graceless manners. I remember when he took on a man who refused to give up his seat to lady in a bus.
5. We’re in the age of globalization and fast manufacturing. How difficult – or easy – is it to hold on and remain a family business, with a small, itemized production?
I believe that branding is essential to a vast majority of luxury goods consumers.
Every day, quality comes second. However, thanks to my heritage and personality, I always wished that the Maison Aubercy keeps on sharing its family legacy through shoes.
I want to keep on fighting for our few but faithful customers who put quality before a name.
I feel that it is my duty to carry on my grandfather’s legacy – not only the love he had for my grandmother, but also the people he met along the way who loved shoes.
Our customers can feel how special it is to be in one of the last standing, independent, family-owned Maison.
Our strength is to be found in our independence: we are free to create according to what our hearts and our clients’ hearts desire.
And our craftsmen are deeply committed to their trade.
6. When looking at Aubercy shoes, I can see three schools of thought: the English, classic in design; the Italian, for their long-lasting quality and lasts; and the French, for their unique designs, colors, and sharp lines. Altogether, they create a unique look. How do you make sure that everything works together?
Tradition is what allows us to make sure everything works together.
My grandfather took what’s best of both Italian and English worlds.
I’ve had this shoe culture in me for over fifty years, and the family legacy made it natural to me.
7. Aubercy has a RTW, MTM, and bespoke service. RTW and MTM are made in an independent ateliers in Italy. Why so? Why not in France?
We began with small ateliers in the North-East of Paris, near the Buttes Chaumont.
Sadly, these ateliers have closed in the 1950s. We then worked with an atelier in Romans, the shoe capital of France, that also has closed at the end of the 1960s.
These successive closings forced a question on us: should we work with Italian or English ateliers? We chose Italian ones because they fitted our business values best.
They are small, family-owned, independent ateliers of less than ten employees. This approach allows us to stay consistent with our core values.
We stuck with the Italians ever since, and with this atelier especially, because I am persuaded that no one else in the world keeps on working the way they do, with such high standards derived from so many years of experience.
We’ve been working closely for forty years with one family. Because they still work the way we did in France eighty years ago, they can ensure a quality that only the best in France could do – but that has disappeared today.
The good relationship between us and our ateliers allows us to create shoes that are our own: our lasts, skins, linings, style, and specifications – everything is made to measure for the Maison Aubercy and cannot be duplicated or found elsewhere.
You can only find us at 34 rue Vivienne, Paris, and at our cherry-picked ambassador’s in the world.
8. I’d like to talk about your bespoke line. I remember that eight or nine years ago you had to stop taking orders and search for a new bespoke craftsman. How implicated are you in the bespoke process?
Yes, the Maison Aubercy always wanted a bespoke atelier.
It’s one of our specificities that hints you on our general state of mind: we went from ready-to-wear items and never renounced to the search for excellence. We went the opposite way compared to other maisons.
It seems obvious that the bespoke line will go on and that new shoemakers will join the team.
In a few months we’ll offer alternatives to the bespoke line.
The only thing that matters for us are shoes – not men or their names.
9. Creating a pair of shoes for Aubercy is a delicate process: it takes time to design it and create it. It even took a dream to create the oh-so-famous Lupin, dreamed about during the Venice Carnival! What’s the creative drive behind each collection and each design?
I’m lucky to be able to express my creativity.
We regularly recreate historical designs invented by my parents or grandparents.
My creative process is derived from my passions: cars, photography, travelling, gastronomy, but most and foremost the people I meet along the way, our clients, and our history.
Strangely enough, my creative peak is between 3 and 5AM.
I must confess that Italy is a formidable source of inspiration, and especially Venice. When I’m there, I feel that my eye only meets beauty.
To me, beauty is intuitive, harmonious, and demanding.
10. Years ago, like many people interested in shoes, I was led to believe that the Goodyear welt was the superior welt, and that the Blake Stitch was a lesser, cheaper construction. However, now I know that everything depends on the shoemaker and the logic behind this choice. Do you think that the Blake welt is visually more compatible with the idea of the Aubercy shoe?
Bravo! You’re one of the happy few that asked himself the good kind of questions.
Making a shoe can be done in many ways, whether it be with a Goodyear, a Blake, a Bolognese, or a Norwegian welt.
I wouldn’t say that the Blake welt is more compatible with the Aubercy style; we also have a hand-sewn Goodyear welt.
I couldn’t pick one welt over another. It’s like watches: I like very flat watches, but I also like the chronograph kind. Why do I have to choose?
My only demand is quality. It’s the same when it comes to shoes.
I personally own both, and love them equally, whether it be 20-year-old Blakes or hand-sewn Goodyear.
11. How would you describe a typical Maison Aubercy customer?
He’s a refined man of culture who knows how to recognize quality.
We are honored by his presence because he knows that he finds with us something he can’t find anywhere else.
He’s a sophisticated man, but not only because of the clothes on his back – most importantly, because of the way he behaves himself.
I’ve met people of high importance in the industry, medicine, trade, or politics, and who stayed humble.
The typical Maison Aubercy client is a man seeking beauty and that knows how to see beyond branding.
12. When designing a bespoke pair of shoes with a customer, what kind of creative force have you behind their choices?
Your question targets the meaning of the Maison Aubercy: each client is unique.
This is the true meaning of luxury to us.
We do everything in our power to please each client willing to express his singularity through this medium.
13. Have you ever barred a client from making a purchase or refused to design shoes that were objectively non-attractive?
Yes, I say no as soon as a client asks us to copy a design – as it happened back in the day when everyone copied the two-buckle shoes.
After saying no to this client, we told him that we could create a new design instead. That’s how the Neal was created.
When it comes to designing shoes, I never say no to customer even if it’s not to my taste.
I do not judge as long as the customer’s design is respectful of our Maison and ateliers.
For instance, we don’t accept exotic skins hunted by customers themselves. We try to gently nudge them in the right direction. Sometimes we don’t take orders from customers who don’t even remember that they already own the very same pairs of shoes.
We also refuse to sell when shoes don’t fit properly. We don’t accept bespoke orders when a customer can have the same fitting qualities with a ready-to-wear pair of shoes.
In other words, we try to be as respectful and fair as possible.
14. Is there a thing such as the perfect fit? How would you define it?
You know it’s a perfect fit when you can hear the air escaping the shoes when you put them on.
You can define a perfect fit through senses: the eye can see the refinement of the shoes; the hand can feel the leather and of the fit; the ear hears the air being put out of the shoe by the foot; the nose is stimulated by a unique smell of leather.
Often customers are surprised by how comfortable our shoes are.
Many say that you have to “break in” the shoe, but we wish that quality and comfort wouldn’t wait so long.
15. I remember that, back in the day, in your boutique, you displayed shoes made by shoemakers that weren’t as well-known as you. Do you still do it? How did it begin?
Sadly, we stopped because we lacked time.
We wish that our shop rue Vivienne could be a refuge for all shoe lovers.
We don’t focus so much on selling other people’s shoes, it’s more about sharing our love of beautiful shoes.
That’s why we have not only shoes but also books and good vintages in the cellar (he laughs).
16. Who are the shoemakers you admire?
I admire Italian, Japanese, and English shoemakers.
To me, the person creating the shoe passes on a bit of himself into it. Beethoven said that « only the pure of heart can make a good soup”.
Sadly I haven’t had a good soup in a while because of my busy schedule preventing me from meeting anyone.
17. What’s a good quality luxury shoe to you? To me, it’s not only a fine piece of leather or welt, it’s also many things the eye can’t see or feel such as the great people that lend a hand in creating it.
Once again you’re right.
My grandfather would say that you can’t see what makes a good shoe because, in our Maison, making a shoe takes around three hundred and fifty different tasks.
We strive for excellence in each and every task, from choosing a piece of leather to the finishing touches.
We try to convey our soul through what we do, and the human touch and pleasure go beyond leather.
18. What are the most iconic Aubercy shoes? Which ones are your favorites?
My heart breaks every time I must answer this question because I love each and every of our hundred and fifty models.
They all bear my last name and they represent a part of my family history.
To be fair, I have a leaning towards the Lupin, the model I created, for the André, created by my grandfather, for the Swann and the James.
In a completely different register, I like the Ellipse and the Crazy-Lace for their uniqueness.
19. According to you, what’s the best part of working at Aubercy?
Working in a small family business means that I can work in many different fields.
I like creating as much as observing our customers’ happiness when they realize their desires are being heard.
I first and foremost appreciate transmitting my love for shoes.
20. The creation and expansion of the Maison Aubercy looks like a true love story. How do you plan on maintaining this heritage and transmitting it to the next generation?
Love is the heart and soul of the Maison Aubercy.
The next generation, like the ones before it, will be focused on its sensitivity, as its part of the genes of the Maison.
We talked previously the friendship between my grandfather and Arturo Lopez. All these men of culture were motivated by the same desire: transmission.
I truly hope to maintain this vision of luxury.
21. Two years ago, I quit my corporate job to sell high-end shoes instead. Next year, I will go to Italy to learn more about shoemaking. I know this is what I was meant to do. What would you recommend to the ones who, like me, aspire to become shoemakers?
I would recommend to hurry because workshops definitively close one after another.
Good workshops are becoming a thing of the past. Italian craftsmen leave to cheaper countries.
Our beautiful craft’s soul is disappearing into thin air, and it’s up to us to prevent this from happening.
First of all, I would like to thank Xavier Aubercy for taking time of his busy schedule to answer all of my questions.
And of course, Raphaël for acting as the intermediate and always being polite and pleasant in our interactions.
These interviews are virtual, with a more limited scope but I still think you can understand a lot about the person behind them.
Mostly from the way they talk and express themselves.
Xavier Aubercy did not give me just basic, canned responses promoting his brand.
Instead if you read the way he writes (and I am sure some part of it sounds better in French), he speaks with passion, love and care for what he does but also what his ancestors did.
He shared intimate short stories of his childhood and grandfather, which help you transport yourself in an older time and societies.
Those core values remain today and that is a joy to realize. From refusing sassy, impolite celebrities of the time, to the rude influencers of today, standing true to what you believe and chasing perfection is an admirable quality.
There’s no denying that Aubercy makes some phenomenal shoes and I look forward to the time where the world returns to normal and I can visit their Atelier in Paris.
I strongly encourage you to do so as well.
I Need Your Feedback
Interviews with shoemakers and brands are a big part of the blog that I personally love.
After some constructive criticism in the latest ones, I would like to ask you for advice or recommendations.
If you know how to improve them, or have some questions you want asked, please let me know in the comments.
I will appreciate it very much and until that, I will see you in the next article!
Thank you for reading,