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Between Batignolles and Place Clichy, Rue Biot can be proud of its new shoe repair shop: Atelier Desbois. It’s a long way from the familiar ambiance of the traditional cobbler’s shop with a mountain of keys from floor to ceiling and heaps of tatty shoes. Here the atmosphere is fairly uncluttered with a few pieces of vintage furniture, an attractive, colourful counter and, of course, that smell of leather that always takes us back to bygone days. The man behind all this is Bruno, a thirty-something with a passion. He has long dreamed of having his own space, a new-generation cobbler’s shop and a mix of tradition and modernity. After training with the Compagnons du Devoir (the craft guild) and nine years in the profession, he has finally launched this place that reflects his personality. A warm welcome and traditional craftsmanship await his customers.
Atelier Desbois, 27 Rue Biot – 75017 Paris.
Bruno, can you tell us about yourself? Where did the interest in shoemaking come from?
The story starts ten years ago, when I was trained by the craft guild. I then completed an apprenticeship with a specialist rope maker before signing a permanent employment contract. I learned veritually everything, from technique through to management. The work of a shoemaker never remains the same – it’s constantly reinventing itself. That’s why I’m so passionate about it. I wanted a job that was both inspiring for me and useful for my customers.
What was the inspiration for creating Atelier Desbois?
I’d always dreamed of being an entrepreneur. It took nine ideas for the idea to mature and for me to start out on my own. Nine years during which I was perfecting my skills in the job. I was also lucky enough to have the unconditional support of my loved ones. That gave my energy levels a real boost. It helped me to gain confidence in my plans and everything came together over the course of a few months.
What’s different about the Atelier, compared to ordinary shoemakers?
My aim is always to engage in a diallogue with my customers. To create something that you can see, smell, and touch. I always try to convey my perspective on the craft of the shoemaker. The aim is not simply to show up, drop off your shoes, and leave. The consept of craftsmanship is extremely important.c I’m not reinventing the old techniques; what I am doing is freshening up the craft so that customers feel at home when they visit the Atelier.
Who decorated the premises, and what did you want to achieve?
For the decor, I relied on my friends and family. I had my own ideas, but it’s important to challenge them, to help them evolve. Atelier Desbois is located in an old shoemaker’s workshop with a rich and varied history that goes back over 50 years. With these works, I wanted to remain in keeping with the charm of the old buildings while adding an element of modernity via colours, wood, lighting, and the counter.
Tell us about the stories behind some of the items that are here with you.
The furniture was mainly found second hand by browsing, but it goes perfectly with some new items such as the chandelier, or the shelving that was custom made by a joiner. The two stools at the counter were part of the old shop. They suited the new environment perfectly and create a friendly atmosphere where I can chat with customers. The trio of seats came from a provincial flea market. I had them reupholstered by my cousin. The stool for my sewing machine was another chance find.
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Photography and Text: Eve Campestrini – Translation: @thesocialitefamily