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Interviews

Gouillaume Gonin and Nicolas Maistriaux (Clairvoy)

July 7, 2013

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If you happen to travel to Paris you should see one of the most dazzling and sophisticate shows:  Moulin Rouge.  Starting with 1885 when it opened its doors, Moulin Rouge has set the standard for the world’s most famous cabarets. The house was co-founded in 1889 by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller (who also owned famous Olympia music hall) and it has  a the red windmill on its roof as a symbol. Born in a flamboyant Era – the Belle Époque – Moulin Rouge, located in Montmartre district, is the birthplace of a new dance inspired by the quadrille which became more and more popular over the years – The Can-Can – meaning “tittle-tattle” or “scandal“.

Façade Clairvoy 1945

Few people know that between the charmant dancers performing the famous Infernal Galop from Jacques Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” and Gentlemen shoes there is a link called Edouard Adabachian (also known as Clairvoy).

Mr Clairvoy

Edouard Adabachian

Born in 1913 in Trabzon (Turkey) he arrived very young in France and started his career as a apprentice shoemaker. Coming back from WW2 Mr. Adabachian settled near Montmartre, more exactly at 17 rue Pierre Fontaine. Since then Clairvoy house makes shoes for the entertainment, theater, music-hall and famous clients related to entertainment. Among them Yves Montand, Charles Aznavour and Simone Signoret. In the 60’s the house begins the famous collaboration with the legendary Moulin Rouge creating shoes for both male and female dancers. Soon after they wore requested to create footwear by other famous Parisian theaters such as Crazy Horse or Lido.

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©Moulin Rouge®

In 2002 Clairvoy won the famous award “Grand Prix Madeleine Renaud – Jean Louis Barrault” (named after the famous Comédie-Française actress and her husband Jean Louis Barrault actor and director of the Théâtre de l’Odéon-Théâtre de France).

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Four years later in December 2006 Edouard Clairvoy’s daughter Chantal and her husband Antoine passed the responsibility and honor to continue her father work to two young shoemakers  Gouillaume Gonin and Nicolas Maistriaux (who previously worked for Pierre Corthay).  In 2009 they launched the Clairvoy “Men’s Line” up to twelve models in various.

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You both were talented shoemakers before arriving at Clairvoy. From whom did you learn the craft and where did you practice shoemaking over the years?

Nicolas: We have both followed the training of Journeyman (Compagnons du Devoir), a professional course which gave us the opportunity to travel in France and worked for several workshops.
Guillaume: It enabled us to learn different technical skills in the specialized production of orthopedics and boots.

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How many stages are necessary to build a Clairvoy  shoe? 

Between 40 and 60 hours are necessary to make a pair of shoes and more than 150 distinct stages; all our shoes are completly handmade and made-to-measure.

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Elegant Vert Joker is a very handsome shoe. Who is in charge with Patina in your workshop?

Nicolas: Thank you ! I am in charge of the patina. I adapt myself to the desire of the clients. I have to consider the evolution of the color the clients want for their shoes. (ex:  if someone chooses a light green patina, he may want to change it a few months later into a dark green). The patina gives an unique character to the shoes but it is also the time and the attention we give them that will define their style.

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As I see your leather selection is very wide starting from Calf and pigskin to exotic leather (crocodile, ostrich and elephant). Where do you get the leathers from?

We buy all our leathers from French suppliers only. They know the specifications and the quality we require to make our creations. It is sometimes the suppliers who call us first in order to recommend us exceptional skins. They have the feeling of being part of the creation of a unique piece. Like us, our suppliers are passionate about their jobs and we like to exchange  and share with them our experiences.

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And the price range starts from…

From 1500 euro for women made-to-measure shoes, and from 2500 euro for men.

What models do you prefer from the Men’s Line?

Nicolas: My favorite is the ‘Chukka Petit Prince’ because it’s a modern style shoe, dynamic and elegant at the same time. This pattern is perfect on every occasion.

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Guillaume: My favorite is ‘’Elégant Rose Ardant’.  I like the smoothness of a Richelieu and the spectacular patina !

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Why did you  initialy chose shoemaking ?

Guillaume: I have always been passionate about the craft industry and manual work. I became quickly passionate about leather and the  technique of making handmade shoes.
Nicolas: I have always been passionate by shoes since I was a child. My training and my professional encounters reinforced my wish to create my own models.

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What work in progress do you have right now?

We work for different shows like circus and cabarets and we also work for some independent artists that are currently working on new shows. We have more and more private individuals who order made-to-measure boots for women (men that want to make a surprise and exceptional gift to their wives or girlfriends). But we also have a lot of women passionate about shoes  that want to fulfill their dream: to design their own shoes ! And of course  the day-to-day work with the creation of made-to-measure men shoes.

Moulin Rouge cancan boots

©Moulin Rouge®

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©Moulin Rouge®

Moulin Rouge is now the major shareholder. Why did this happen and how was your work affected being part of Moulin Rouge?

The last owner of Clairvoy wanted to retired but there were no buyers. The Moulin Rouge, historic customer of Clairvoy, decided to buy the company in order to maintain this unique know-how and to give Clairvoy the opportunity to carry on!

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What is so particular about cabaret shoes?

The cabaret shoes must be very strong, comfortable but also beautiful ! Those shoes are made for intensive use. For example, at the Moulin Rouge, there are 2 shows every day and the dancers perform 12 shows a week. It is very demanding for the shoes, especially for the French Cancan boots. Our shoes have to answer the different technical constraint met by the artists on stage. It is essential to understand the expectations of every customer, their desires andtheir needs.

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In the past six years what major projects did you accomplish and what international celebrity clients do you recall to be more demanding in term of complexity of their order?

These last six years have been rich and intense for the company. Our manufacturing top of the range allowed us to work with the biggest names of the cinema and the stage: Gérard Depardieu, Jean Dujardin, Michele Pfeiffer, Kylie Minogue, Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Knie and musicals. Lines and work of finish of the House are praised and put forward by our customers. A phenomenon that has become more visible in the eyes of the French and International public arousing new desires of creation.

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What was your biggest challenge since you joined  Clairvoy

To resume successfully a illustrious craft business and to continue to perpetuate the philosophy and daily values of Maison​​ Clairvoy.

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*Special thanks to Fanny Rabasse (Clairvoy)  and Melanie Moya (Moulin Rouge)