Interview: Filep Motwary
Portrait Raphael Lugassy
Eugène Riconneaus presents himself as being 20 to 30 years old, depending on the need and where he is located. Described as an inspired skater, late-night painter and lover of crafts, he has already passed almost half his life in French boot makers workshops. Everything started during his teenagers’ years, when Eugène was 13 and falls in love with skateboarding and young women, skate and sneakers being as one, women and shoes also, the following is of implacable logic. He chooses to train at his own school – to the detriment of the typical school boy, spending all his time with boot-makers which we’ll find in future references, master craftsman of Northampton or Romans, true stronghold of high manufacture – more particularly an old boot-maker of J.Lobb to whom he owes a lot.A few years later, he starts graphic studies, studies which he stops due to lack of finance. This was for the best because it is how he devotes himself entirely to explore the universe of women throughout the obscure object of desire that is the shoe, without missing on embezzling the most dandy of his coevals with his sneaker or “ souliers de sport”.
Inspired by women around him in his daily life, it is on the feet of his muses, artists, editors, models, women of one night stand or women he met day or night which helped him deliver in his 18 year his first feminine shoe collection. For love of the know-how but also to homage French boot makers who passed on their knowledge, his creations are entirely crafted in France by qualified craftsman. His first shoe was a derby with slight appearance, crafted with copper loss and a sole… in wood. After all, we all learn form persevering…
-Eugene, it was your love for women that forced you to get involved in shoe design? Though there is also your passion for skateboarding. I am a bit confused here, can you justify?
When I was 12/13, I was constantly skateboarding, which very often had as result having my shoes damaged. I often had to patch them back together. At that time, next to my parents house, we had a Sicilian (formerly of John Lobb London) boot maker and I used to visit his shop and he would help me for my shoes. After the discovery of that universe, the tools and craft of boot-making I fell really in love with leather. During the early blow, I used to go & see him every Wednesday afternoon after school. Until you I had school no longer. At the same time I started discovering women. The transition from shoes to women happened very quickly : I started drawing shoes to seduce my girlfriends…
How did everything start for you really? Where did you study and how everything evolved after?
I did not have the strength to afford a fashion school. I left college in the middle and started working as a free-lancer graphic designer. I started slowly saving some money for the launch of my shoe line when I was 18. I was lucky to be given a few samples of leather and forms to create my first prototypes (Belleville, Cholet, Novels). My first capsule collection was born and there comes JOYCE from Hong Kong who bought everything. Step by step, season after season, business went better and better.
Why you have chosen fashion as your profession in the first place.
I always wanted to do something creative for women. After an bootmaker encounter I came across one usual day, I got instantly inspired.
How did you form the Eugene Riconneaus heroine / the woman you design shoes for?
There’s a relationship — almost a love relationship — that’s very important for my creative process. I am in daily contact with women, and I find shoes as an incredibly seductive accessory if you allow me to say. It’s up to me to breathe in their desires, and ultimately combine inspiration with their personalities. In each of my shoes collections, the shoe has a woman’s name. It can be the name of a friend, a lover, or a woman I knew for just one night… I’d like to give total accessibility to my work to artists, visual or not, to writers, and to city-dwelling poets.
What is your design philosophy.
Every shoe that I create is always under guidance of an encounter with a woman. My procedure is always based on the form of a dialogue, a meeting. Each shoe creation must have a history of manufacturing, reflect expertise and match my DNA.
What do you think of feet in general? Is it a form of fetish for you?
Unlike the ready to wear, shoes are made to support you. No foot fetish there, I feel exactly just like a kid doing shoes for women.
Do you feel fashion is changing? If yes to which direction?
I’d better answer your question in 10 years… In any case, fashion is changing but always returns, on the same road that you know well, except that it returns with another car and different fuel.
What is the most important thing a young shoe designer must know?
The most significant is making good shoe manufacturing. Also, you need to have your own DNA, your own identity and not just to be ultra creative. One needs to have a style that fits its time, have a coherence collection..