Interview of the month : Alexis Lafont, Caulaincourt’s founder and Artistic Director

Interview of the month : Alexis Lafont, Caulaincourt\'s founder and Artistic Director

# 1 WHY DID YOU CREATED CAULAINCOURT ?

 

I created the house that I have wanted to see exist as a client.

Everything that I undertake with Caulaincourt I sifts my own consumer vision.

This obsession is perhaps the key to the quality of the customer experience we provide everyday.

The risk would have been to see this diluted ambition as the house was growing. But I now have a team with me and this team shares and embodies the will that Caulaincourt will always focus on listening, expertise, service and share joy that a client needs to live a great moment when buying a beautiful pair of shoes.

Today many customers who entrust us with Caulaincourt find better service than in many illustrious brands that have become too big, no doubt. This is our gratification, one that rewards hard work.

And Caulaincourt is also the natural result of my passion for taste: the beautiful things and good things.

I am what is called a “bon vivant” and this business is a way for me to share that. The pleasure can flourish only in sharing.

 

# 2 DO YOU HAVE ONE OR SOME FAVORITE MODELS?

 

Difficult question.

Difficult to the extent that I created everything related directly or indirectly to Caulaincourt as Artistic Director; by nature, each of my creations is the fruit of my subjectivity.

But if some shoe models should retain my preference, it may be of benefit to the overall advantages of the shoe rather than its simple aesthetic. Comfort, ease or not it will have to marry in a particular situation, context or setting.

The Opera model for example, in his white grained deerskin version is probably the model that I wear the most throughout the year.

Comfort is fantastic thanks to its perforated leather lining, its Bolognese construction and leather flexibility.

Then there is its color: it is true that my daily work do not impose me gray suit, so white shoes are allowed, and even extremely convenient to associate as liked to make Serge Gainsbourg at the time with his Repetto.

The GQ magazine recently devoted a paper in which I try modestly to spread the word about white shoes: Photo link.

Without going more, here is a selection of models that have kept my favor over time: Attila, Nomad, Colonial, Hemingway, Blackburn, Mony Peny, Caesar, Cassandra and Jane.

 

# 3 CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CREATIVE ASPECT OF YOUR JOB?

 

What excites me every day is the creation: I design shoes, photographs, website or even our stores.

The creative process is not a static element, because it depends on inspiration

The inspiration, it starts with an open mind, a focus on a whole bunch of little things, sensitivity.

The more difficult it is to not get caught daily by the accumulation of management tasks, and keep this mental state, the mind availability that allows for pointing this or that form, color, light, silhouette, article or any other element that later produce an idea.

 

Beauty is benefiting those who can see it.

 

This is a real discipline necessary to reserve a small part of myslelf to observation, permeability, curiosity.

A new model will not necessarily come to life after hours of “white sheet” in the office, but at a street corner, watching a movie, when traveling, in short : when the brain is busy with other things rather than work.

That’s why I always carry with me a small notebook that collects my notes, my sketches, or my ideas: I can not predict when it will show the tip of his nose.

The hardest part in this process not to have inspiration, but rather to find ways to have new ideas: to reserve the spaces for “constructive work”, moments I’m not working. And paradoxically it is very difficult for a man like me who puts a lot of energy into his work.

With time, I learned to “auto trap me” to guarantee the existence of this mental state that can stay creative. Sometimes it is only about not taking the daily way to go from A to B, or a going to see a film for the only reason that it is not one I would have chosen spontaneously etc.

But sometimes that is not enough, and some infertile phases in terms of creativity can last several weeks!

All this is very important because it allows the house to anticipate trends (we were the first to revive the Monk shoes, or tassels shoes while nobody believed in that for example).

I think Caulaincourt has a really interesting offer of shoes, which covers most needs – uses – of the man of today.

From the beach to the harshest winter conditions, we offer compatible shoes, because we do not forget that this is an object that is intended to be worn, used, not in mid bell.

But whatever the intended use in shoe, we move forward with the idea that it should be comfortable and beautiful.

To ensure this, I compelled myself to vital rigor: if I have not even a doubt about the aesthetic qualities of this or that product, I do not validate its serial output.

It is not the commercial need to guide collections, but the creative side; This is also why we have too many models!

But my challenge and my enjoyment for eight years is that people like my shoes, those who wear them and those who see them worn.

 

# 4 WHAT IS YOUR VISION OF ELEGANCE?

 

For me elegance is first a question of mentality: it must be in the brain before being physical.

It must also be assumed and unfeigned. There is nothing worse in my opinion than the “elegant” that give the impression of being disguised.

Finally, on the one hand it is essential in my view, but on the other hand it must also take the stage without taking themselves too seriously.

It is a state of mind.

 

# 5 WHY IS IT SO HARD TO MAKE QUALITY PRODUCTS?

 

This is my daily challenge.

I do not support the approximation, even less mediocrity.

If I offer a product, I need to be proud of, and trust in him.

That is why we have quality control processes that are very restrictive, downstream of production, but also upstream with a specification very very though in manufacturing.

My job is to find the best hands, the finest materials, to offer a great product. It is demanding, and it’s a matter of time.

It has been 8 years I have been working with the same French workshop for example, and I tend to think that the same product is better today than it was back then.

The time that has elapsed has paid off, trust but also mutual understanding between them and me is at its peak. And my clients are benefiting.

It is difficult because there are few places capable of manufacturing quality shoes, but also because the leather (of which we are extremely dependent) is a living material: ensuring consistency to our customers is a challenge without cease renewed we face every day for years despite a market that has become very tense.

Indeed the tension on the leather market increases continuously as a result of the frantic consumption of luxury goods by the so-called emerging countries: prices are booming.

So the challenge is twofold: to offer a quality product and provide it with a certain stability in prices over the years.

We have not followed the high inflation that has occurred among major market players, who have seen their prices explode.

Caulaincourt remain to be very high quality shoes, offered at a reasonable price.

 

# 6 CAN YOU TO SHARE SOME OF GREAT JOY OF YOUR BUSINESS?

 

I had the chance to experience a sense of pride, achievement twice recently:

To begin, the birth of our first bag “OSCAR” which is the result of many years of work.

I am pleased to offer my clients a product like this, which is unlike any other bag.

 

For me everything is there:

A homemade provided by a tiny French workshop dedicated to best brands.

Amazing materials.

The customization made possible by the patina, or special order service.

A singular aesthetic and assertive.

A sale price without any reasonable doubt for a product with such noble genes.

 

Same magic formula for the second project which has emerged recently: our new Bespoke belt service.

What is a « bespoke belt » ?

To start with, it is a « compagnon du devoir » which realizes our belts in France, an exceptional craftsman.

Then it is a product made to order: our customer can choose any of the buckles to the skin dressing, through the dimensions of course (length, height), but also finishing as the shape of the end of the belt, the hand sewing or color slices and stiches.

30 Poursin buckles, over 300 references of leathers, 25 colors of thread … a infinity of possibilities for an exceptional object.

And always on arrival the joy of seeing clients who, seduced by the project of an elephant skin belt, or more modestly of a magnificent bull nubuck, launching their orders with the spirit of a little boy in front of his fire truck.

 

It is a joy to see our customers love our products, a reward, and a calling.

Interview by Thierry Richard, author of the famous “Paris pour les hommes,” and editor of the digital magazine about man lifestyle : Les Grands Ducs.

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the 2 June 2015. Through Alexis LAFONT. Category : Featuring, Fresh News