Edouard Quinchon is the founder of Maison Mauban. He creates shoes for clients who are looking for high quality and have a specific approach, one that will turn a pair of shoes into a unique object. He found his calling when he encountered a pair of shoes designed by his great grandfather. Since then, the will to pass on his knowledge in order to perpetuate the French savoir-fairehas been part of Maison Mauban’s values.
Maison Sensey : How did it begin?
Edouard Quinchon : It all started when I discovered a pair of boots that belonged to my great grandfather. I was helping my grand parents empty a room in their house where they had been storing things for decades. As I was curious, I opened every box and that’s when I fell in love with a pair of studded boots that had been designed by my great grandfather. He was an architect; he used to design shoes and have them made by craftsmen.
I wanted to bring life to his designs to make them available to those who wanted to get the shoes of their dreams. It started in 2013. I had to learn everything, and I’m still learning ! I used to work in a completely different field, in ministries. I wrote position papers on news topics and on public policy issues to create a reference library.
But after discovering this pair of boots, I wanted to learn the skills behind them, so I went to the cobbler who lived next to my grandparents. He gave me the name of a bootmaker and one thing leading to another. I went to see another bootmaker who brought me to a tannery in the Auvergne region, and to a workshop in the Pays de Loire. I started learning and understanding how everything worked.
I then felt like I needed to see what was going on in other European countries. I went to Spain, England, Hungary, Italy. But it is mostly while talking with French artisans that I understood that their knowledge was slowly disappearing. One after the other, all the workshops in France are closing down.
It can be explained by several factors. The craftsmen did not manage to tell their stories, while we – the consumers – went towards products whose prime quality was low pricing. Eventually, rapidly changing fashion trends and short-lived products won the battle. Moreover, intensive distribution is not compatible with handcrafting as it cannot meet the needs of distribution channels.
Do you think your great grandfather’s boots were a call?
Oh yes, it wasa sign from the universe! I was very lucky. They were my first epiphany. But I had another epiphany not long after that. I ended up sleeping in my car in front of a craftsman’s workshop, waiting to try and convince him to make boots like they did in the old days. This extreme situation just confirmed my calling. When you end up in such a position, or for example in a hotel in the middle of Europe waiting for someone, you know you’ve found your calling. I decided to trust these signs from the universe.
But I am still learning, and I will keep learning because it takes years to get to know the different types of leather and tanning techniques. For example, there’s a first step designed to make leather rotproof, to make sure it won’t change or rot. Then comes the dying part. Tanning is performed in a tank. Leather can stay there from three months to a year, depending on the type of tanning you are aiming for. You can get very thick and resistant leather, or very flexible leather with warm colors, while using vegetal tanning will add some depth to it. I did not know any of this just a few years ago!
Then, you also need someone who can create a shape. They will carve and polish a wood log into a specific shape on which the leather will be laid. Then the third artisan comes in: the bootmaker assembles leather sheets to create a shoe that can last for generations. Every time I step into a workshop, I am amazed to see how one can shape an object with raw material, thread and needles.
What inspires you to design shoes?
It’s the first time anyone asks me this! It’s all about the imagination that shoes convey. I have three main inspirations. The first one is meeting the client. It is a very important first step to better understand who they are, what type of shoe they want, and what’s in their own imagination.
My second inspiration is the legacy of the great bootmakers and the shoe designs that withstood the passing of time. My third inspiration is my own life story and imagination. I can draw inspiration from many different things: a movie, a book, a scenery, a color… This creative process is the sum of many small steps that make up the big picture.
Where does the name Maison Mauban come from?
It is the name of my great grandfather.
Who are your clients? What are they looking for when they come to you?
I don’t have a specific type of client. Some of my clients come to me to fulfill a personal desire or to go a bit mad and buy themselves a service that they will not find somewhere else – a story, a bond that we create in the course of our meetings. I have one requirement: the shoes I make must be immediately comfortable. I will never sacrifice comfort. My clients want to buy something meaningful. It can either be aesthetic, or it can be linked to the story of the artisans who take part in the creation of their shoes.
This approach has a lasting impact in a specific area. Clients like to know that they’re contributing to reviving this savoir-fairein France. It’s a quest for meaning and imagination.
For example, one of my clients loves rock’n’roll and wanted blue boots with an elastic side panel! His imagination was very strong, and I easily stepped into his world. The kind of boots he wanted date back to the 60s and 70s in England, while blue leather is very much like Elvis. I also meet clients who ask for shoes similar to that of Alain Delon in “The Godson” or “Purple Noon”, for example. That’s why we spend a long time talking, because creation and inspiration are the fruits of a meeting.
Do you think clients are more and more attracted to meaningful consumption?
Some of them are. Most of the time, they are tired of going to large impersonal stores where sales assistants look down on them and try to sell them products on which they will make a good profit. That’s how they feel, more and more often. And those clients are looking for something more. They want to be able to tell the story of the product, why it was created and why they chose to turn to French crafts, because they are aware that France does have its own savoir-faire. And should it come to disappear, if the Cholet workshop were to close tomorrow, this specific knowledge would disappear from the planet.
In any case, some clients want their purchase to be meaningful, they want it to become part of bigger story and part of a dream. It is both about legacy and dreams. And my dream is for their grandchildren to discover those shoes later and think “What is this design?!”. Yes, I want them to dream.
Shoes are all about elegance. How would you define elegance?
Elegance is both complex and simple. It’s not just about clothes because they are just an envelope. It is both about a person’s style and about who they are and what they convey. Elegance is built in dribs and drabs. I find it pretentious to say, “I am elegant”, because it is mostly about how one behaves, and there is some sort of responsibility behind it.
Your collection is a men’s collection, how do you picture women’s footwear at Maison Mauban?
I feel very humbled by women’s footwear. I have much more to say about men’s fashion. I have a vision, I’ve been trained in men’s footwear and I now have some experience, so I will stick to it for now. I can design a gender-neutral shoe if a woman wants me to, and I will do everything I can to create the best design for a feminine/masculine identity, but I won’t go as far as creating stilettos. I will stick to men’s fashion, as Maison Mauban really has something to say about it.
If you had to describe Maison Mauban as a person, who would it be ?
Mauban is a gentle dreamer who’s doing his best to keep his feet on the ground.
What type of leather are you most fascinated by ?
Calfskin, also known as box calf. It is an amazing type of leather. It is incredibly flexible, and once tanned, its color provides a wealth of depth. It is both the most classical and the most unique leather there is. It is an extraordinary leather – when died by the book, it will perfectly weather over time. I like to provide my clients with leather that has already been died so that it can grow old with them.
You also create biker boots, a more technical type of shoes. What is Maison Mauban’s edge on this type of shoes?
It all started with the discovery of an amazing world! The bike brand “Blitz” contacted me, and to be honest they are part of the people who gave me the strength to go for it. Their story is similar to mine, they left everything behind to start living off their passion. We first built a friendship that led to a great collaboration. I did not know anything about motorbikes.
I created biker boots with a rubber sole used by French skydivers. Biker boots also need very thick, scratch-proof leather to change gears, so I found some greased leather that gets tanned twice longer. Its unpolished aspect allows scratches to wear off. I also needed eyelets that wouldn’t rust, so I found an artisan who makes the material used for gun barrels. In the making of a shoe, each step has a meaning.
Would you like to add anything to conclude this interview?
I hope for everyone to find the strength to make their dreams come true. It takes courage, but we’re never actually where we think we are.