The Legendary Designer of Oxford Lace-Ups Celebrates 30 Years of Shoe Invention
In 1981, Robert Clergerie began making women’s shoes on men’s lasts, fuelling a burgeoning trend for androgynous style that has had a massive resurgence in recent years—witness the penny loafers being fielded by Miu Miu and Chloé this fall. He may have had a huge influence on women’s footwear, but it was almost by chance that Clergerie found his calling: in the 1970s, having just left the army and during a spell working in road construction, he applied for a job managing a subsidiary of Charles Jourdan. After six years in the business he set out on his own; spotting that an old men’s shoe factory, Joseph Fenestrier, was in financial trouble, he rescued it and began producing his trademark styles, moccasins and rope sandals among them. To this day he is remarkably pragmatic about his vision: “The design of shoes is largely determined by the knowledge and technique of the factory,” he explains. “And as I make shoes in a men’s shoe factory, all the technical operations determine the style.” Lucky for him that as trends come and go, his signature Oxford has remained a fashion mainstay, a fact clearly demonstrated by these images from the past three decades and his current collaboration with hip boutique Opening Ceremony. So how would he describe his perfect customer? “The Clergerie woman is more remarkable by her education than by the money she makes,” he says with a Gallic shrug.