Tim Jefferies’ favourite bespoke shoemaker

The owner of Mayfair’s Hamiltons Gallery talks to Nick Scott about the artistry in Maison Corthay’s repertoire. Portrait by Sebastian Boettcher

Gallerist Tim Jefferies (seated) with Parisian shoemaker Pierre Corthay at his London boutique
Gallerist Tim Jefferies (seated) with Parisian shoemaker Pierre Corthay at his London boutique | Image: Sebastian Boettcher

“I first became aware of Corthay by accident, in Paris about nine years ago. I have a close relationship with the Park Hyatt hotel brand and Pierre’s atelier is right behind it. I was passing and found myself looking in the window at all the shoes – they seemed like candy – and thinking, ‘I want this one, I want that one, I want this one…’ They’re exquisite. Even the less extravagant ones make a statement. And I really like how narrow the shoes are – I’d have a couple of toes removed if it meant I could keep wearing Corthays.

Of all the bespoke shoes on which I’ve collaborated with Pierre over the years, perhaps the craziest have been the ones I’m wearing now – a pair of crocodile classic Corthay Arcas with a kind of burnished-maroon patina, which he made for me about seven years ago. Although they’re so versatile – I’ve worn them with jeans and with a suit – I keep them for occasional use. These are not for the faint-hearted; you need to be feeling full of confidence when you put them on.

I also have several pairs of ‘go-to’ Corthay shoes, including some low-top Chelsea boots – featuring that distinctive Corthay toe – in several different colours and materials. I sometimes worry that Pierre might think, in terms of his repertoire, that they’re a little bit boring, as compared to, say, these [he picks up a Union Flag-emblazoned pair from the shelf, made as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee], but they’re so comfortable, so chic and have this beautiful red piping around the top that makes them extra stylish.

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Pierre and I don’t see each other very often – the last time was in Hong Kong, when Corthay opened an amazing new store in the Landmark building – but every time I do see him it’s as if the last occasion was yesterday. It’s a warm, easy friendship. As with my tailor – who’s made for me for 30 years – when you work with someone who makes your clothes or shoes, you need a special relationship. With Pierre, this now stretches beyond the practical; we get to see each other in social environments.

Broadly speaking, bespoke is dangerous ground – in a good way. The minute you own something made for you, you can’t go back. Nothing – however good – is good enough again. And that’s especially the case with shoes. Jackets, shirts and trousers are adjustable – and shoes are to an extent – but it’s not the same as having someone make something to the precise dimensions of your foot. And handmade shoes support your body completely differently.

Also, if you look after bespoke shoes, they’ll look after you. They’re a good investment – I really believe that. I also love the collaborative process – I’ll come in thinking, ‘I want this’; Pierre will suggest that as an alternative, and so on. The only limit is your own imagination.”

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