Enter the world of: Renaud Imbert – Leather Craftsman and Cobbler

Quality never goes out of style‘ 

This is the phrase which can be discovered on Renaud Imbert’s professional business card. For around thirty years, this leather craftsman has been devoted to his passion, also becoming a cobbler, which he has been practising for twenty years now – having worked with many distinguished marks, notably Hermès. Oddly enough, there are no particular studies required to become a cobbler, and there obviously appears to be a revival of the profession these days – he doesn’t agree with what has been said, that it had become ‘a lost art’. Renaud Imbert considers himself a craftsman first, and less an artist. He is partially Corsican, and has been living on the island for fourteen years now – this was not a family legacy nor a heritage (which can often be the case as regards to this profession).
Today, one can count only twelve or thirteen actual cobblers remaining on the island – others have diversified and spread out their work for various reasons, and where he is concerned, he finds it important to give attention to just one occupation. As for the mainland, there would be an estimated 3,500 remaining active today. What he enjoys doing the most is redoing a whole shoe – which can take 4-5h, hand stitching and machine stitching are involved, representing equal time between both in the end. 

Types of repairs + creations: There’s a wide variety of shoes, bags, belts – of which, belts would be the most popular, taking into account that a bag can take from fifteen days to three weeks to complete. When I visited his workshop, I noticed the range of coloured, elevated and less elevated, open and closed shoes and sandals that were discreetly awaiting his attention – a silent deformed world he would transform and rebuild. He always uses box calf (calfskin) French leather, which is a quality choice distinguished by pliability and grain, and firm in consistency – he considers it to be probably the best leather in the world. He’s also used to touring the mainland, in search of the best quality selections. 

Is it more difficult here than elsewhere, being an island, or not particularly ? In his opinion, absolutely. Difficult for supplies and the island undergoes excessive shipping costs – everything is more complicated here, even the very fact of going on holidays (here, he related a few details of misadventures he experienced). It is certainly true that there is a definite problem with certain destinations nearby most of the time, that seem to create unthinkable problems. 

I was wondering about training courses that could exist for young adults who wished to perhaps become cobblers. These do exist, with skilled tradesmen on a tour of France, working in several places with monitoring from craftsmen. However, those interested remain a minority. But, an interesting point to be kept in mind is the fact that women are becoming more interested in this profession, as it is not at all too difficult for them. It’s amazing when you think of the fact that there were around fifty cobblers in Ajaccio during the fifties, and also one in each village.I learnt that there are two patron saints for cobblers – St. Crispin and St. Crispinian, celebrated on October 25th every year. Back in the past, there were celebrations and balls on this day. 

Most unusual repair to date ? – a medieval armour for a theatrical performance on the mainland (certainly stands out from the usual repairs requested !)

Now, to relate his most recent exciting news, which is like a dream come true: In March of this year, participating in this years International Shoe Repair Competition which was held in Wiesbaden in Germany (a worldly event), and where he won a bronze medal. But, let’s return to the beginning of this story, which began a few years ago exchanging views and ideas with cobblers from abroad through forums on the Internet, and learning the existence of this competition in Germany. His work was shown to judges by friends, who said he should absolutely participate. Inscriptions took place as of September, with the deadline mid-January. The concept for the repairs would take forty hours, starting in his own workshop and taking one week, this meant giving his whole attention to this work. He found it stimulating and challenging to re-evaluate oneself, participating with thousands in this adventure. And, at the same time there was a show for professionals dealing with fabrication and reparation when he was there, and where he met people from all over the world and had the chance of admiring the shoes that had been made. 

So, what has he yet to achieve ? In fact, he has been giving reflection to the creation of a line of sports shoes, with an assortiment of belts – to be followed, of course – for the near future, we can expect to discover his own brand of shoe polish !Indeed, some beautiful and very expensive shoes make a halt at Renaud Imbert’s workshop.  
To my question what would be the ideal shoe, and my choice of ‘phrase of the day’ – his answer was the following:”designed by Italians, made in England, using French and German leather.” Now, there’s an interesting combination for you ! 

Finally, all of this reminded me of an amusing quote from Christian Louboutin: ‘The stiletto is a feminine weapon that men just don’t have‘.
Always so refreshing to meet someone who follows his/her passion, and once again such an interesting exchange. 

Where to find Renaud Imbert

Address: 2, rue Marechal Ornano, 20000 Ajaccio

Mail: cordonnerie.renaud@gmail.com 

Facebook: Renaud Imbert Maroquinier Créateur https://www.facebook.com/2Acuir/

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