Paris people

The King of Cobblers


He didn’t have as much time as he wished because it was the week of the Haute Couture shows and he had to deliver 100 pairs of hand-made shoes for Karl Lagerfeld’s models over at Chanel.

Massaro was on the run. He and his workers had plodded day and night to get the job done, one single pair of custom-made luxury shoes needs 40 hours of labour. Now the old man, offspring of an Italian shoe maker who came to Paris by the end of the 19th century, stuffed a plastic bag with his fine shoes and said: „Karl’s waiting.“

High-heels for Liz Taylor

He hurried down the stairways, left the building, crossed Rue de la Paix where Massaro’s ateliers were opened 115 years ago. Raymond, the last Massaro in a proud line of cobblers, talked while walking. He talked about the red slippers he crafted for Pope John Paul II. About the high-heels for Claudia Schiffer, for Demi Moore, for Liz Taylor. It was him, Raymond Massaro, who measured Greta Garbo’s and Marlene Dietrich’s feet, and as he talked, hurrying down the Rue des Capucines, he had the air of a dinosaur.

10.000 pairs of wooden lasts were piled up in the cellar of his house in Rue de la Paix, they belonged to 10.000 more or less prominent customers of the past, actors, princes, entrepreneurs. Massaro told me that one of his clients, a German, had ordered 30 pairs of shoes when he learnt that Massaro had no son or daughter as a heir. And his stories, all true, became ever more fascinating when he narrated his encounters with Coco Chanel who lived in the Ritz Hotel just vis-a-vis of Massaro’s atelier.

A last glance in his withered face

I had to leave him when he finally entered the Chanel headquarters in Rue Cambon, „Karl“ doesn’t like unannounced visitors. Raymond Massaro said good-bye and I had a last glance in his withered face with the enormous tear sacs, but he looked young, overall. „That’s fashion“, he said, „fashion kept me alive and going“. Three years later, Raymond Massaro retired. And since 2008, new bosses try to keep the Massaro brand „alive and going“. Hard to imagine though how to manage that without Raymond, the last king of the cobblers of Paris.Photos:
Philippe Atienza, successor of Massaro, poses at the workshop   Photo: François Guillot, AFP
Raymond Massaro (standing on the left) in his showroom back in 2005 - Photo: Thomas Rusch