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Inside The Massaro With CHANEL

Paris Paris

Meet: Massaro. The century-old fashion house responsible for creating the iconic black-and-beige shoe synonymous with CHANEL. Get out your notebooks, kids. Time for a little history lesson! Founded in 1894 by Raymond Massaro and currently headed up by Monsieur Philippe Atienza since ’08, Massaro is the heart and sole of the Métiers. Situated near the Place Vendôme (in the most unsuspecting building, may we add) is a special place preserving the lost art of shoemaking. It’s essentially every Cinderella’s dream – a small-scale factory creating one-of-a-kind slippers (that means heels, too), which not only fit perfectly, but are committed to carrying on the traditions of craftsmanship. Fourteen skilled men and women—along with a bunch of young, cool apprentices learning how to cultivate the craft—work furiously on archaic equipment producing the famed footwear for CHANEL’s two haute couture collections and, of course, the Métiers d’Art. Oh, and they also do the accessories for Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler. It’s all about custom, custom, custom. And as they say at Massaro HQ, “Anything is possible here!”

Preserved in the Massaro “museum” rests every pair of footwear ever made for CHANEL – including Coco’s original two-tone sandal, which set the standard for decades to follow. Massaro is infamous for working with clients like Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Hutton and Elizabeth Taylor and we can’t help but wonder if any lucky bidder scored Taylor's custom Massaro soles in that recent auction! After crafting a celeb cult following, private clients began to take notice and started seeking out the fine craftsmen at Massaro for their own signature soles. Everything is tailor-made to fit the customer’s needs. It starts with a discussion, where the client references images and inspiration, then their foot is measured and a “wooden last”—that’s shoemaker-speak for “prototype”—is made. Three meetings, three weeks (or, sometimes three months!) and 30 hours later, the masterpiece is complete. The sketches for the Métiers—from Uncle Karl, of course—arrive about a month before the show and then it’s all hand’s on deck. No detail is overlooked and the quality is a true testament to how closely Karl works with Massaro to bring his vision to life. It’s a creative collaboration between the seven houses: Heel by Massaro, embroidery by Lesage, etc. And the proof of the process is in the sole. To this day, Massaro is the only name that’s allowed to be stitched into the shoe next to CHANEL’s. And don’t be fooled by the craftsmanship of these mini works-of-art – Atienza is all about comfy couture. In fact, Massaro makes orthopedic footwear, too. And, let’s be real, how often do you find the words function and fashion in the same sentence?

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