With his maternal grandfather, the painter Henri de Maistre, a violinist mother, and a father who was Lafarge's cement boss for many years, Alexis Lafont, founder of the Caulaincourt shoe brand, could not fall very far from the apple tree. Photography, drawing, sculpture, he learns these arts from childhood while remaining self-taught. Because ultimately, he will opt for a classic course through HEC and Centrale. " I first evolved into the marketing and strategy departments of Kellogg's and EDF. Then, at one point, I felt the need to bring together the two hemispheres of my brain: art and business "Explains Alexis Lafont with humor.
It was ten years ago. Two banks follow him and, for the rest, he self-finances his project. Only recently he raises 180,000 euros to open his corner at Printemps de l'homme. The latter comes in addition to the four boutiques in Paris, reinforced by six selective outlets in the province, and exports initiated to Switzerland, Japan and Hong Kong. As for the name of Caulaincourt, it has been discovered in the genealogical tree of the family where this general, grand equerry of Napoleon, is nestled, but also dandy before the hour.
Sneakers in very limited edition
" In 2008, when the idea was born, I had noted the return to authentic products, with less fuss. As I was passionate about shoes, I imagined a precise product, beautiful, well made, finding an excellent Vendée workshop, which still works for us. Alexis Lafont launches his first prototypes, encouraged by a master and friend: the iconic coach Raymond Massaro. " I organized the sale of my first models in bars or hotels while counting on a good return of the website, born at the same time and that we improve today. "
The year 2010 will mark a turning point because, contrary to the use according to which the brands specialize in a type of assembly, Alexis Lafont decides very finely to multiply the choices according to the use. He therefore offers ultralight bolognese sewn in the summer, while in winter the Blake or Norwegian sewn solids appear. Here again, the production is entrusted to the best in their field: the boots return to small workshops from Northampton, England, summer shoes to Majorcan units.
Prices, they, around 500 euros per pair. Born just a year ago, Caulaincourt sneakers are produced in Italy, including the three new models (low, mid-high and lined sheep), published in limited edition of 25 copies each, are made in collaboration with the house of fabrics Hare. " Collaborations are very interesting and I'm starting to develop them for our brand. Thus, I am currently working on a running shoe with the Palais de Tokyo which makes the editor, since the artists Philippe Baudelocque and Pablo Tomek, both in residence, will be in charge of the customization. "
Customization à la carte
In addition, five years ago, for its clientele of dandies fond of beautiful details, Caulaincourt embarked on leather goods (belts, card cases, etc.) made by a workshop of the Companions of Duty located in Limoges. " We are among the very few to offer bespoke belts, where the customer can choose from over 300 skins and a wide range of colors. Finishes, slices, loops are made by hand. Luggages complete this department, including Nova school bags with a very urban and masculine look, possibly matching a pair of shoes in color.
The absolute hipster chic! Because the concept of the unit order of each article proposed is part of the DNA house, as well as the customized customization of a pair of boots or luggage so that the customer can get the exact reflection of his taste.
" We have about 500 orders per year on a custom basis, at 700 euros on average; this is not an excessive price for this type of service, says Alexis Lafont. We are also in the process of certification of the Living Heritage Company for our expertise and, in particular, for the development of very specific techniques for coloring leather. It is a complex research work that we have pushed very far. "
This 10-year-old French house, with its strong use of international know-how and interpersonal skills, is the consensus among its regular customers, from which the names of Gaspard Ulliel, Antoine de Caunes, Jean, emerge. Dujardin or Martin Bouygues.