Across the board, menswear seems to be enjoying a moment of rebellion. Whether it’s a brilliant up-and-comer challenging gender-appropriated styles, the rise of louche loungewear as eveningwear or how-has-no-one-thought-of-that-before tailoring on Savile Row, it’s an exciting time to be a gentleman of taste. What all these forces (for they are, truly, forces to be reckoned with) have in common is that they understand that our inner rebel is still one with taste and high-expectations.
J.M. Weston is the most recent brand to have placed a luxuriously clad foot upon the bandwagon this autumn, joining the parade of luxury designers re-writing the rulebook page by page. The French shoemaker has joined forces with contemporary urban architect group Loci Anima to host a pop-up store in Paris unlike any other. Located in the Gaumont Ambassade, a much-loved cinema whose final curtain call sadly came in August of this year, J.M. Weston has brought a unique shopping experience to the Avenue des Champs d’Elysées.
Drawn in by an intriguing and artistic film playing outside the cinema, created by a 24 images per second projection-like film of a man walking in J.M. Weston loafers, customers are invited to enjoy a theatrical – yet not overdone – presentation of simply beautiful shoes. The hallway presents the house’s key designs, in J.M. Weston custom flight cases that evoke the glamour of travel and a time gone by. Once inside the former cinema, the cast is a role-call of J.M. Weston’s most iconic designs, the spotlight belonging to the signature Moccasins (reproduced in striking ‘Gaumont’ red), a signature model whose success is partly down to the ‘Bande du Drugstore’ rebels of the 1960s. The mod gang wore them without socks and refused to conform to their fathers’ codes of conduct, therefore injecting the shoe with a dose of attitude that has stuck. In 2015, Le Moc’ Weston was reinvented; grained calfskin became butter-soft in seven new colours, the inner stiffeners disappeared, the skins were carefully selected for their supple and supportive qualities, and the structure was tweaked for maximum comfort and a luxurious feel.
The brand itself was born of two juxtaposing personalities (one a modest entrepreneur, the other a dandy with a penchant for showbiz), and wears its history with pride today; modern twists meet classic styles, the house’s chic look results in international appeal, and its craftsmanship balances colour and verve. Even J.M. Weston’s Creative Director, Mr Michel Perry, dreamed of breaking free from his family tradition and in the end returned to his roots, taking the helm in 2001 to oversee the intricate processes which each and every design goes through - from tanning the leather at the Tannerie Bastin to hand-finishing the final product after some 150 different procedures.
These meticulous details deserve to take nothing less than centre stage, which is precisely where you will find them at the pop-up. Artfully arranged for the connoisseur, one can browse at leisure in what feels like a deeply nostalgic and atmospheric cinema club, albeit one with extraordinary footwear on show. In film, as with shoemaking, every frame counts, every movement and close-up and perspective, and it is through the two concepts coming together that J.M. Weston celebrates the creativity and elegance involved in both crafts. The exhibition space is a beautifully considered exploration of the principal role J.M. Weston has played in shaping gentleman’s footwear over the past 100 or so years, and Loci Anima has achieved something that demands a five star review and a box office hit.