The Robert Clergerie label builds on the legacy of the savoir-faire developed in Romans some 120 years ago.
Its name is familiar to all shoe-lovers and has not dated. Indeed, 35 years after its creation the Robert Clergerie label perpetuates the tradition of high quality and a masculine-feminine style that was so dear to its founder. This signature style, with its international aura, continues to combine technical prowess, creativity and export success.
In 1970, Robert Clergerie discovered shoemaking at Charles Jourdan in Romans. Eight years later he bought the Société Romanaise de la Chaussure, better known for the names of its labels, J.Fenestrier and Unic. In 1981, the company created its eponymous label and opened a boutique in Paris, rue du Cherche Midi.
Women had taken to wearing trouser suits and immediately fell in love with the company’s androgynous looking derbies and brogues. The Goodyear welt, imported in 1905 by Joseph Fenestrier, and the Ridgway sole with its military inspiration added the finishing touches to the elegant and comfortable masculine-feminine style.
Sobriety and architecture are omnipresent. Wedge blocks and graphic platforms paid tribute to the Japanese aesthetic as well as the structured volumes of the 1940s. The articulated wooden sole ensures a supple and natural gait.
The label takes inspiration from its archives, which are preserved within the company headquarters. Top quality skins also play a decisive role. “Robert Clergerie started out using an almost transparent calf leather, which is impossible to find today,” explained Patrick Colin, the Production Director. “Leather moves with the trends. There were the nubuck years – today there is less demand for grainy calf whereas stretch calf is back in favour...Natural vegetable tanned leather is always present for summer sandals, and simple totes...”
The factory in Romans produces some 50,000 pairs of shoes each season, the work of around 100 employees. Most of them have been working there for at least twenty years. “Shoe-making is based on the savoir-faire of craftsmen,” explains Patrick Colin. “And the production stages have changed little. Digital cutting-out, which allows us to present more collections, is the main innovation. The items are carefully hand finished: Thicknesses are brush painted, heels are sheathed in leather, pompoms are cut out and rolled individually, decorations are perforated...”
In 2007, the entrepreneur decided to create his own school. “It is very difficult to find qualified staff, says Emilio Martin, the Director General. Each year, the factory welcomes a group of young people aged 18 – 20, from various fashion schools. They follow a month of intensive training and produce a shoe from A – Z.
Since 2011, Robert Clergerie has been part of the Fung group, alongside Cerruti, Sonia, Rykiel and Delvaux. Roland Mouret, the style director, revisits the company’s heritage while helping to internationalise the label. The Communal collection cultivates a mixed identity. J.Fenestrier has been renamed Clergerie Homme. “The company defends a savoir-faire that sets it apart as well as the Made In France label which is greatly in demand overseas,” the director explains. “Export represents 65-70% of our sales and the aim is to reach 80%, by balancing Asia, the United States and Europe.” The label is present in 22 eponymous stores and more than 400 outlets around the world.