Get To Know | Adieu Paris

Friday January 16, 2015

Benjamin Caron and Isabelle Guedon make a perfect couple. Benjamin, a cordwainer with a fascination for the British subcultures of the 70's and 80's and Isabelle, who has previously worked as a right arm for Alber Elbaz at Guy Laroche and then at Yves Saint Laurent, are the design duo behind French shoe label Adieu Paris. How can Adieu shoes be described? It's a re-creation of the creeper sole with a graphic welt - an integration between the 50's and the 70's.

Let's just say, it's creepers meets Saint Laurent.

In brief, can you guys give us a little background as to who you are?
IG & BC: We met when we were teenagers: Isabelle was 13 years old and Benjamin was 14… long story!

IG: Benjamin had a nice little punk look (inspired from John Lyndon) and was wearing creepers bought in London. He was always a bit disappointed by the details, lines in the design, quality, and was spending a lot of time redesigning them. We didn’t know it yet, but this is when Adieu started! Benjamin always knew that he wanted to design shoes, and he had very precise ideas about his style for shoe designs, so he learned how to make shoes (last, patterns, cutting, etc..) in a technical school and then for a few years, he worked to create some handmade brothel creepers.

Isabelle was more in a 60’s or Mod inspiration for her look, and then now Adieu likes to get inspired from all these popular shoes from the 50’s to the late 70s. She worked in various fashion houses: starting at Christian Lacroix, then Emanuel Ungaro and had an amazing experience mainly as the right arm of Alber Elbaz at Guy Laroche, and then at Yves Saint Laurent. She is sharper in fashion knowledge and inspiration and definitely brings the “Parisian girl” spirit to the duo.

Benjamin Caron and Isabelle Guedon.

RG: What was your first fashion memory?
IG: When my mother bought the Opium perfume from Yves Saint Laurent and that I discovered this beautiful campaign for this perfume with the picture from Jeanloup Sieff. This was so subversive and beautiful at the same time! This was the soul of fashion for me!
BC: All the global clothes, music and aesthetic of the Sex store from Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren with a very provocative vision of fashion.

Interior of the Adieu paris store.

RG: When did you know that you wanted to launch a shoe company together? Did you think there was something missing in shoe fashion when you guys started Adieu?
IG & BC: Looking back, indeed, we feel that all of our experiences brought us to the time when we were ready to launch Adieu. It’s such an important project for us and we had to be ready and prepared to make it.

IG: The English working class, made famous by the Teddy Boys to the most significant of the punk-rock scene of the 70’s and 80’s figures like John Lydon, Joe Strummer or Alan Vega, amongst others. Benjamin was personally very inspired by John Lydon when he was young and had a very sophisticated look himself. He has a real eye on shoe lines and a very designer’s expertise. He is totally obsessed about details and his drawings look like technical drawings, which makes our shoe designs so precise. Even on a very basic style like TYPE 1, it’s not “boring” but right!

IG & BC: The original idea was to start with the shoes we wore as teenagers. We wanted to give them a real nobility, focusing on minimalist design and quality: to make beautiful shoes on the basis of a simple and popular philosophy.

Raymond Radiguet’s sentence extracted from “Devil in the Flesh” says it all,
                        “Purpose is nothing less like the things themselves that what is very close.”

The aim was to develop a well-designed shoe, well thought out and comfortable. Since the original Adieu project is to ennoble the history of men and popular shoes, we thought it was a normal thing to establish some “iconic” archetypal classic shoes for the first season and we keep them as permanent styles every season, offering to both men and women. With that in mind, we try to keep a very special balance between the elegance of clean lines, minimalism, and quality and the boldness of a crepe sole with a graphic welt. Kind of like a wink to the past for the look and a wave to sneakers for the feel.

RG: How did the name Adieu come up?

“Il recréerait des souliers,
Ah Dieu! si vous le vouliez!"

Le Savetier - Poème de Stéphane Mallarmé

“He would recreate shoes,
Oh God! if only you’d wish!"

The Cobbler - Poem by Stephane Mallarme

IG: Since Benjamin was handcrafting creeper shoes 15 years ago, this poem came through his head when we were looking at a brand name, and then “Ah Dieu” became “Adieu”, which is a very poetic word, very positive in our way meaning “just don’t look back, go on” in a very romantic way.

RG: As a romantic duo, what are the positive and negative aspects of having both male and female perspectives when it comes to your design?
IG & BC: Well, we know each other for 30 years now and we share so many music, movies, aesthetics in design… etc. We’re a bit like Siamese twins, and Siamese with no ego trip (which is a very important point!). It’s really a 50/50 combination for structuring the brand and collections. Then, the fact that Benjamin wasn’t so involved in fashion keeps him “fresh” to propose personal designs, in terms of technical aspects as well. On the other hand, Isabelle has been on the opposite, a more global vision and very “immersed” in fashion, and from that, she can focus more on the line sheet and the brand development.

Isabelle would start to find the theme and details for the season, while Benjamin starts designs very spontaneously from there. Then Isabelle criticizes and looks for directions and Benjamin would continue to design in a more directional way. This then, will give the “families” of the collection. After this, it turns the opposite way: Isabelle suggests colours and materials for the designs, Benjamin criticizes, then she would review it… etc. At one point, the collection is there!

RG: Where do you draw your inspirations, is there a specific person or an era in time that comes to mind when you guys are designing the shoes?
IG & BC: We always start a collection with some ideas that comes bit by bit mysteriously! For this SS15 season, we first wanted to get inspired by the 50’s rockabilly guy, but with a real elegance, like Johnny Cash. From that we have some design details of simple lines and colour combinations with shots of neon colours: neon fuchsia and neon yellow, mixed with black and white and a touch of an olive gold colour.

The colour palette for SS15 is inspired from a modern art gallery, where you can touch the art pieces or climb on the wall of the museum, for young generations who have a rock n’ roll approach to life and art. That’s our SS15 inspiration!

We have a poster to illustrate it, every season, from our friend, painter and graphic designer – Tristan Galdos del Carpio.

Spring/Summer 2015 poster

RG: What do you look for when you’re selecting retailers or boutiques to carry the brand?
IG & BC: A sense of “attitude” is associated with the Adieu shoes. The elegance, casualness, simplicity and the silence and mystery part all relate to our crepe soles. Adieu shoes are not “show-off” shoes, and our sobriety is actually having a strong impact through radical lines, design, colours and material choices. We love playing with contrasting, even seemingly contradictory codes, while trying to find the right chemistry that reflects Adieu’s world.

We try to balance between a rock and roll dark side to a touch of humour for our clients, men and women between the age of 30 to 45 years old, with a certain knowledge in fashion and cultural references that allow them to imagine themselves as a “chic Arsène Lupin”, but also a modern woman, who knows how to get her femininity with a flat, comfortable shoes, to invent strong characters like the French actress Léa Seydou, who likes her Type 1.

Beyond the phenomenon of current fashion or flat shoes for women, the question of sustainability of this Adieu statement seems to settle over time, as some “revolution” happened already in fashion when women stopped to wear corsets or when sneakers became real city shoes and not only sports shoes. A desire of “cool” sophistication is quite clear, as someone like Michel Gaubert, who has several pairs of Adieu, can illustrate. Of course, young people too, and we’re so happy to have such “fans” of Adieu shoes since they’re into the vintage and rock references like “baby rockers”! 

All in all, our retailers must also have this kind of spirit and understand all these values inside Adieu.

RG: What would you say is the iconic shoe of today?
IG & BC: ADIEU! :-)
And Nike Air Force Ones!!!

What was it like the first time seeing someone else wearing Adieus?
IG & BC: It is such a real pride and it makes it for real suddenly. The best thing is that a lot of our clients tell us the same thing: when they wear Adieu in the street, people look at their shoe, and ask them what the brand is. They “speak” in their simplicity, and THAT is the best compliment.

What do you guys have planned in the near future, and with the popularity of sneakers today, are there any plans to expand your product lines?
IG & BC: Hey, hey!!! ADIEU sneakers are coming for SS15! Get ready :-)

Shop the Adieu Paris Collection here.

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