You may know the name Caulaincourt – a small but highly promising brand in the mid- to high-range shoe market, which we've monitored closely for a few years now.
This confidential Parisian house, created in 2008 by exuberant shoe lover Alexis Lafont, has become one of the most impressive introductions to the shoe market of the last decade.
First and foremost, the house caught our attention for the quality of production, made almost entirely in France - with more than 85 percent of leather sourced from French tanneries—with few flaws for the excellent price point : ranging from 475€ for the permanent "Paris" line to 565€ for sturdy winter boots. As a credit to their discriminating taste for quality leather and creative design, Caulaincourt now holds a solid place in a market segment that is becoming more crowded by the day.
On a stylistic level, the Caulaincourt name has steadily climbed in a timespan of a few short years – a feat few houses can boast after much longer time periods (even for the biggest names).
Particularly notable is that Caulaincourt's 'style' cannot be defined by a few iconic models (compared to J.M. Weston's 180, Berluti's Alessandro One Cut, Aubercy's Lupin, or Corthay's Two Eyelet Arca Derby), as the house is committed to create varied and nuanced lasts with a selection vast enough to please most any taste.
Even with such variation, Caulaincourt's lasts can still be recognized by a trained eye, as they craft shoes which are slender but avoid appearing overelongated... a 'triumph on proportions', which (like French tailoring) isn't British or Italian in appearance, but yields a look which can be positioned somewhere in-between the staunchness of a British shoe and the flair of an Italian shoe.
Model diversity is another one of Caulaincourt's strengths. Its recent international developments (Switzerland, Hong Kong, Australia) may look modest compared to a few of its neighbors at Le Printemps de l'Homme (e.g., Crockett & Jones, J.M. Weston, Church's, Santoni) but the Caulaincourt wide range of classic and not-so-classic models in a variety of materials and constructions, including bi-material stunners in Tweed or Denim, make seeking-and-finding the shoes worthwhile. Non French residents may also order online at the house's e-shop.
Last but not least, Caulaincourt has a notable MTO service (called Napoléon) which is extremely flexible in terms of meeting customer demand – as almost anything is conceivable—including the most daring mix-and-match of materials. The pricing policy is also easy to understand : any MTO order costs 175€ more than a mainline model, whatever the alterations and customization (excluding exotic skins).
Caulaincourt also sells a collection of bespoke belts made by a French Compagnon du Devoir artisan, and a limited but interesting line of luggage (for example, the Oscar briefcase) rounding out their ever-developing selection.
For its debut in the world of luxury department stores, Caulaincourt's Alexis Lafont (a unique character you should get to know) overlooked the brand design down to the most minute details.
The look-and-feel of this small "store in a store" is original and refreshing, with shoes encased in glass bells and rows of bowler hats used as lampshades to light-up Caulaincourt’s discreet logo.
The sales corner is set up to correspond with the brand's obsessive attention to detail : the padded bench seat (designed by Pierre Roch) is curved slightly inwards at ground level to open up space for the free movement of the customers' feet. The bench fabric is by Pierre Frey, and is made of virgin wool in a "Diamond's facet" pattern. The rug is cut-to-measure from famous designer Tom Dixon's "Smoke" design. As extreme as the Caulaincourt backdrop may appear, it is no doubt, delectable to behold.
A visit to Caulaincourt's store at the new Printemps de l'Homme is a particularly enjoyable experience. If you find yourself in Paris, drop by not only to see the re-design of Le Printemps de l'Homme luxury department store – with over 11 000 square meters dedicated solely to men, but also to discover (or re-discover) Caulaincourt, which is surrounded by a behemoth of the men's shoes industry.
We at PG believe Caulaincourt should capture the attention of more than a few customers with its convincing lines of original and stylish quality shoes and boots.
A strong entry to the big league by a house which is beginning to thrive.
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Caulaincourt at Le Printemps de l’Homme : 64, Bd Haussmann, 75 009 PARIS (5ème étage).
Site web et e-shop Caulaincourt.