Since the 2008 opening of his West Village shoe boutique, Leffot founder Steven Taffel has been enthralled by Corthay. The French shoemaker, known for its sleek, sculptural designs influenced by racing cars and aeronautics, has been carried by the shop since day one.
“I just fell in love with the beauty of the shoes,” Taffel says. “They’re very elegant, very refined and have a very sophisticated look.”
In January, Taffel took his appreciation to the next level by adding Corthay to Leffot’s online customization program, where it stands in the company of Edward Green and Gaziano & Girling. There, potential buyers can choose from 18 of the French maker’s models and select their preferred last, leather and sole in addition to flourishes like colored linings and contrast trim.
It’s essentially a digitized version of the made-to-order experience available at Leffot and the Corthay boutique in Paris, bringing the pre-pandemic trunk shows Leffot held with Pierre Corthay, the brand’s founder, to the worldwide web.
“We thought, ‘How we can still present this collection in a way that you could see it from home?’ This is what we came up with,” Taffel says.
The range of options—and breadth of styles—are daunting, but Taffel points first-timers to the Arca, a two-eyelet derby that he calls the “quintessential Corthay shoe.” From there you’ll decide between the slender Sèvres last or the slightly more accommodating Pullman and ponder whether Corthay’s signature sculpted toe is worth the extra $210.
“It’s very sexy,” Taffel says. “I don’t know of any other brand that does that. I’ve never seen that particular toe on another shoemaker.”
Then comes the question of leather, with 28 shades of calfskin and 18 hues of suede at your disposal. While the daring may go wild with ruby calfskin or electric blue suede (we’d advise caution), Taffel recommends customer favorites like Old Wood, a richly patinated calfskin that overlays a light brown base with dark brown running to black, as well as the deep purple aubergine. Among the suedes, Taffel is keen on the fittingly Gallic options of burgundy, chardonnay and the cognac-like Castor.
And while you might indulge in blue laces, copper piping or even purple lining (see parenthesis, above), not every customization is aesthetic. For $150 and $40 respectively, rubber dress soles and sunken metal toe caps can extend the life of your Corthays. But even the functional options have a beauty to them: their textured rubber “rug” soles evoke the cobblestone streets of Paris.
After placing an order, customers can expect fulfillment within 12-16 weeks. Though Taffel believes Corthays pair just as well with suits or dark denim, he recognizes that dress shoes aren’t exactly in urgent demand at this time. However, he thinks the customization program provides another vital service for the moment: instant, online daydream fulfillment.
“The trend for now, and maybe throughout this year, is going to be more people working from home and shopping online. I think everyone wants a little distraction,” Taffel says. “If you go on the site and play around with different colors and options, maybe you don’t order it that day. But it’s something to take your mind off the fact that you’re home all day or in lockdown. And then maybe you’ll order it at a different time.”
Yes, we’ll be pounding the pavement again someday soon. And when we do, a pair of sculpted-toe Casanova oxfords in lie de vin calfskin may be just the thing to celebrate in.