the story behind
A family business with a rich history and a strong DNA: SARTORE.
A footwear brand created by true shoe experts with a great sense of style. We interviewed the second generation of Sartore, the sisters Catherine and Françoise Sartore, about the cooperation within their family business, their favorite style icons of all time and the artistic design and production process of the boots.
Sartore was born in 1978. How did it all begin and what was the initial idea behind the brand?
Sartore’s story began when Mr. & Mrs. Sartore decided to create their own factory in 1959. Paul Sartore (whose father had a shoe repair shop in the small village of Breil Sur Roya in South of France, at the Italian border) was a jazz artist. Once he got married, he decided to change his life for a more settled one: he got the idea to build his own shoe factory in order to create his own style. Mr. & Mrs. Sartore settled in the small village of Breil Sur Roya and started to build their great adventure.
In their first factory, they started producing unisex driving loafers under the SPORT SOUPLE label which succeeded for a while. Then, under the influence of Italian manufacturing (they used to visit Italy very often in order to explore and learn about Italian manufacturing), they decided to change their production and created a new factory for Blake stitched leather sole boots.
With a lot of work, passion and effort, our new men’s shoe brand called ESQUIRE, got well known during the 70’s and was worn by the French show-business artist Mike Brandt. In 1978, Catherine and Françoise, their two daughters, who grew up in the world of craft and leather came to join family business. At that time, the factory had already started to produce some styles for ladies, such as high boots on leather heels with a classic look.
We wanted to have more fun and decided to create our own line; more feminine and fancy, under the label CORILLA. In 1980, we stopped CORILLA and registered the family name SARTORE as a brand, including men and women collections. So, the SARTORE brand really started in 1980 with the help of our first press agency located in Paris. As we already started designing western boots which were a trend at that time, an Italian friend introduced us to Guy and Alain Azoulay in order to create authentic styled western boots together. As our factory was able to use reptiles as lizard tegus, croc, ostrich, python and to produce welted leather soles shoes, we got a very nice collaboration for a few years with the Azoulay brothers.
In 1984, we opened our first shop in Paris at 13 Rue du Churches Midi, in St Germain. Since that time SARTORE has remained faithful to its own DNA made of a mix of traditional craftsmanship, androgynous and timeless style, high quality leather and authenticity.
In 1997, the French factory closed down and the production was moved to Italy. The Italian production kept going with the same standard of quality. The design has been carried from the beginning by Catherine Sartore, who is actually taking care of the artistic direction of the brand in collaboration with the Italian team and a new designer.
“We are a kind of a mix of French and Italian culture."
How would you describe the aesthetic identity of Sartore?
SARTORE’s DNA has been built by a mix of traditional craftsmanship (roots from men’s shoes), androgynous style, high quality leather with special finishes (most of them are vegetable tanned, more transparent and natural) and an authentic style that feels free to be by itself. I mean, we are more a strong timeless style than fashion, which is why customers can keep their shoes for a long time and still look good. They look even better when they are vintage!
Sartore is established in France. What made you fell in love with the Italian lifestyle?
First of all, we grew up at the Italian border, at the French Riviera so we got very familiar with Italy and the Italian culture. Also, our name SARTORE is Italian, which is originally from Venice. During our childhood, we have always been visiting Italy with our parents for business, so it is really part of our story, our DNA. We are a kind of a mix of French and Italian culture.
How is it to work in a family business?
We have always been working in our family business so that is the only way we know, it is our essence. Sometimes it can be difficult as people are close to each other and more feelings are involved, but everybody is part of the business and is committed to succeed the brand. Also, our Italian partner is a family business factory, so we share same values and speak the same language, which is essential to build a durable relationship together.
“I mean, we are more a strong timeless style than fashion, which is why customers can keep their shoes for a long time and still look good. They look even better when they are vintage!"
What does a week at Sartore look like?
This question is difficult to answer as everything is spread out on different locations. Françoise SARTORE works in the office in Brail Sur Roya. She manages the brand’s administration and is responsible for the corner at Bon Marché, the sales in Japan and our own SARTORE shop in Paris. In the Italian factory, we manufacture the shoes and assemble the collection. This is the place where we meet to assure the realization of the collection and more...
Catherine SARTORE is located in Paris. She is the art director and takes care of the visual communication of the brand. Catherine says: ‘I have no routine in making creations, I just think, look, think again, design and then I try to make an idea real. The balance for me is to follow my feelings as a guide and consider the market whilst designing. Now, I am collaborating with a young Italian shoe designer.’
Who is your ultimate style icon of all time?
I have different ones, as our collection is inspired by different words like rock ‘n roll and timeless chic. For rock ’n roll and pop inspiration, I have always been very much inspired by the 70’s as I was a teenager at that time. So, for music and the creation of an androgyny character, I would say David Bowie and Patti Smith.
For the natural, casual pop, my icon is Jane Birkin. She is so cool. For timeless chic, I have two style icons: Catherine Deneuve (a Sartore customer) and Charlotte Rampling. Two strong, sexy chic ladies.
How do you stay inspired to come up with new designs?
A designer must have some flair, be curious and be interested in different things; see the world with her own look to create her own style. Sartore is more a personal style than a fashion brand. Creative and innovative, Sartore has his own universe made of quality and timeless style with a personal twist, for a balanced result.
How do you want women to feel when they wear Sartore?
We want women feel comfortable and good looking at the same time when wearing SARTORE. They must feel confident, and the shoes must really match with their own personality.
In which pair of Sartore boots should everyone invest in?
Every woman who is looking for a contemporary chic style should invest in our classic riding boot (not made for real horse riding, but to walk through the city) or in a timeless pair of western ankle boots that will last for several years if you take good care of them. A lot of customers keep the boots for a long time. Thanks to the use of vegetable tanned leather our boots will get a great vintage look.
What kind of leather do you use for the production of the boots?
We mostly use vegetable tanned leather for the production of the boots. We have been using this type of leather for around thirty years now, a long time before it became a trend. We have always been in love with the chrome free tanning method, which keeps the natural aspect of the skin and gives a better transparency to the colours. However, this transparency can include animal veins or small little scars that are part of the natural aspect, which we have always preferred over extra covered default leathers that looks synthetic. The leather selection is very important for us and are a big part of the DNA’s brand. We only work with Italian tannery, and mostly use calf skins and some buffalini, as well as the reptiles that are part of our story too.
“We have always been in love with the chrome free tanning method, which keeps the natural aspect of the skin and gives a better transparency to the colours."
For our vintage look-line collection, we have a special process; we always use vegetable tanned leather - but raw - in the sense that it is not coloured yet. We dye the whole shoe at the end, when it is ready, in the right colour. When it is dry, we can polish it and make it ready for shipment. It is a long artisanal process that gives a special vintage aspect to the shoes. Sometimes we also use another method, by using the usual finished leather (which is already coloured) and wash the shoe at the end with stones instead of colours. After this dyeing process, the shoes can dry and be polished.
How can you keep your Sartore boots in the best possible condition?
Sartore boots are mostly made of vegetable tanned leather with a very natural finish, so they are very permeable. For this reason, we recommend you to treat the boots with a light, water-repellent spray to minimalize the risk of spots, and to use a non-greasy neutral shoe polish elaborated for vegetable tanned leather to avoid getting white tracks. Use a wool cloth to revive the shine.
In case of reptile leather, use a special product elaborated for reptiles. It is always better not to wear the same pair of shoes every day in order to let them rest a little. If you want to keep them in a good condition for a long time you can put paper or shoe trees inside them. Usually classic vegetable tanned leather gets a nice vintage patina without doing too much.
What does Sartore contribute to sustainability?
Using vegetable tanning (chrome free) is already more natural and sustainable than other tanning methods. Next to this our packaging is recyclable, and as the Italian factory only works with Italian suppliers, there is less carbon impact considering the transportation fact of the various components.
What did you recently learn from having your own business?
Nothing new, it is an everyday fight.
Any future plans you would like to share with us?
Perhaps adding some accessories…
Discover the Sartore collection by Pauw here.