By: Paula Robinson October 2012
Until I met Olivier Marchal, I had a pretty limited idea of what a ‘shoemaker’ was. If you had asked me, I suppose I would’ve described a grandfatherly old man, bent over his workbench, peering at a pair of boots from behind his spectacles. His workshop would be dim and cozy, smelling of leather and shoe polish.
Needless to say, I was a bit taken aback when Olivier told me he was making shoes. Instead of a bespectacled old man, here was a young, adventurous metal smith, ready to take on something he knew next to nothing about.
What he did know was this - his shoes were failing him. The back pain that had begun to plague him at 35 was alleviated only when he stepped out of his cushioned sneakers, and into his own bare feet. When he tried to find a new pair of shoes that had the minimalist design his back needed, and one that was made in the US, he came up empty handed. So, armed with a secondhand sewing machine, he set out to make his own shoes.
A year later, Olivier was ready to start producing and selling his own line of shoes, and I was hired to do some editing and marketing work. Driving over to see the shoes for the first time, I confess, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. I struggled to see any parallels between metal working and shoe making, but I think my misgivings went deeper than that. Living in a country where most everything we buy comes from overseas anyway, even ‘making a shoe’ seemed daunting.
Arriving at Olivier’s workshop, I was stunned. The shoes were fabulous. I even got to see all of the prototypes, which helped me understand just how far Olivier had come in his new craft. What started out looking like a velcro slipper has turned into a modern looking, lightweight, stylish shoe suitable for not only walking but hiking, skipping and dancing or however one wishes to move through the world.
Now that I am a proud owner of a pair of Olivier’s shoes, I can speak firsthand to the comfort and freedom of movement they offer. While not a long distance runner like Olivier, I was happy enough to wear them around town and to the gym. I am thrilled for these shoes to become available to the public.