J.M. Weston’s charming display for a new collection of women’s couture loafers is enough to make one nostalgic for physical fashion shows — though perhaps not for those rickety, spine-numbing wooden chairs many designers favor.
About a dozen such foldable seats are arranged at the French shoemaker’s Marais flagship in Paris, each assigned to a front-row personality with a name card and some of their actual garments.
Tilda Swinton loaned a pair of her chinos and a checkered shirt, which J.M. Weston’s artistic, image and culture director Olivier Saillard matched with suede loafers bearing a small twig on each toe. While the sticks look like bronze, they are crafted from metallic leather, realized by the artisans at the shoemaker’s workshops in Limoges, France.
“It’s our moment of haute couture,” said Saillard, guiding a visitor through the installation, which will remain for about three months, the first of a series of exhibitions to entice and entertain visitors, and also share brand lore. (J.M. Weston dates back to 1891.)
Also a fashion historian and curator, Saillard combed the archives to discover that the first reference to loafers hearkens back to 1946, although J.M. Weston only started making them for women in the 1980s.
Saillard conceived the couture collection during lockdown, realizing “it’s practically a luxury just to walk.”
Especially a walk in nature, the leitmotif of all the couture interventions sprouting on the toe box of loafers: jutting water lilies in black leather for Charlotte Rampling, and not-yet-fully-opened tulips in burgundy-colored leather for Amira Casar. Saillard also encircled ankles with thorny branches or leafy garlands, and replaced tassels with delicate fronds of fern or peapods.
Saillard said J.M. Weston’s leather artisans truly outdid themselves, even creating a realistic-looking cardboard box made of leather to house a pair of white wedding loafers — a wink to the tradition of having a bridal look as the finale of a couture show.
Saillard mused that couture is ecological in the sense that only a prototype is made “and if it doesn’t sell, it goes into the archive. It’s not like we’re making hundreds of pairs.”
The couture loafers retail for between 2,000 euros and 4,000 euros, versus about 670 euros for a regular J.M. Weston pair.
Saillard said the next exhibition at the Marais store, bowing in June, would exalt the savoir-faire used to create J.M. Weston’s 11 most emblematic shoes via an artistic display.