Massaro – A Dynasty of Bootmakers
I think we need to take up again… Raymond Massaro’s comment stating, “For more than a century, the Massaro shop has fitted the foot entirely by hand.”
When they need to find nice shoes, rich women don’t have to think about where to go – they hurry towards Massaro.
Why such a passion for this mythical store? All you need to do is visit the retro exhibit which is devoted to it at the international shoes museum in Romans to understand why. Marie-Josèphe Bossan, curator:
It’s a dynasty of bootmakers, so it’s the passing of knowledge from father to son. It’s the story of a family who remained in the same place, which is rue de la Paix, since 1894. Thus, there’s the famous boot of Duchess Uzès, which is the oldest exhibition piece, dating from 1894 and manufactured at rue de la Paix. And, if you look at the latest models from Chanel at the fashion shows, with the 2003-2004 winter boot which ended the exhibition, well, that very contemporary boot was also made at rue de la Paix.
Over the years and generations, their reputation has been established. From Countess Bismarck to Paloma Picasso, taking into account also Elizabeth Taylor and Romy Schneider, the most glamorous women of their time have been captivated by the shoe crafters at Massaro:
…A prestigious clientele, for example, the film shoes of Marlène Dietrich, or the shoes of Barbar Hutton or Mouna Ayoub, or the moccasins of King Hassan II, since Raymond Massaro was the maker of them, which is a little aside in this exhibition because it’s essentially women’s shoes which are presented.
Why? The first explanation is the design and finishing work which jumps out at you when you look at the models on exhibit. And then, of course, it’s because each model is unique:
Their custom-made…in fact…it’s done in several steps. First, you need to need to take the measurements of the foot. Then, there’s the casting which……you work on the shape of it, you see, and that becomes the central part from which the shoe is built on. Then you make what’s called the mold, which is a kind of “trial” shoe, which is not made from the final materials, it’s made from simpler materials. Then you do the touch-ups necessary to bring together both comfort and elegance. It’s only after this that you’ve created a shoe that is ready to wear.
Today, the best price for a pair of Massaro shoes is about 2,000 euros. For luxury creations, it can go up to tens of thousands of euros. But even at these prices, there is no shortage of customers:
I believe it’s the common denominator of all the custom-made bootmakers in the whole world. It’s that they have clients who come regularly to order shoes, often in very, very large quantities, and Raymond Massaro will tell you that there were certain clients who were almost annually having two to three pairs of shoes delivered every week.
On the design side, the Massaro shoes have left their mark on each era, especially in the 1950s when Raymond Massaro worked in tandem with Coco Chanel:
It was Raymond Massaro who with…it was the Massaro shop who, with Coco Chanel, had invented the two-tone sandal, which as you know had enormous success, and which afterwards was widely copied, both in custom-made and manufactured versions. The shoe often had variations of the different colors, that is, a beige shoe with a black toe, or a sandal, or the reverse…
There were innovations regarding the shape:
This sandal with a sort of platform sole, slightly detached, which allows for more flexibility and walking comfort while still remaining an elegant shoe, or the spectacular high heels, whose heels are in the shape of women’s legs, which were created by Raymond Massaro for Alaiah.
And those models which made history:
Like, for example, the extraordinary blue, white, and red shoe which was created by the Massaro shop in honor of the liberation of Paris, a piece which could be classified as historic.
Today, a new generation keeps up the tradition of the Massaro shop:
With the arrival of Karl Lagerfeld, we’re entering into a different universe, but one which nevertheless provides a continuity because if Karl Lagerfled takes inspiration from the past. Water never goes back to its source, and he’s inventing something new, and it’s in this way that we can see, for example, a canvas espadrille with a black and white toe, an expression of the initial vision of the two-toned sandal of the 1950s.
At the international shoes museum in Romans, there is a wonderful shoe exhibit in the permanent collection, retracing the evolution of the shoe from Egyptian times up to the present, with hundreds of examples which are unique worldwide. So, it’s worth the trip at any time of the year, but if you have the chance to go during the Massaro exhibition which goes until May 2nd, you don’t want to miss that:
Knowing that May 2nd is the springtime of museums, there’s a large demonstration occurring all across France, so that there will be free entrance to the museum that day, and we’re anticipating, of course, a lot of visitors, and you are all very cordially invited.
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