It’s all shoe business with Philippe Atienza. As the successor to Raymond Massaro— the famed Parisian cobbler—he takes his role seriously and is well aware of the legacy he represents. The salon, which was opened on rue de la Paix in 1894 by Massaro’s grandfather, has created made-to-measure shoes for everyone from Marlene Dietrich and Elizabeth Taylor to today’s reigning shoe diva,
Lady Gaga. There are only 13 people on staff, and they produce up to 1,000 pairs of shoes a year, including the ones for Chanel runway shows. Atienza, who is as discreet as a priest, resists any attempt to solicit information about his famous clients. Here’s an edited sample of our chat:

Who had the most beautiful foot? “Only simple questions, please.” Just one example? “Okay, I saw nice feet on a journalist once—very thin, with a lovely shape. It’s quite rare to have nice feet.”

It can be intimidating to show your feet to a stranger. How do you put your clients at ease? “I don’t understand the sense of your question. It’s natural—like if you are visiting your doctor. I’m just concerned about making good shoes, and so are they.” [A change of interview tack was required.]


Tell me about the shoes you’re wearing. “I made them from an elephant laser [skin]. For 20 years, it had been a dream of mine. When I wear them, they give me confidence and endurance.”

No one can step on your toes! “No!”

Are they comfortable?
“Actually, the skin is a little stiff, and less comfortable than calf, but I don’t mind. The look is more important to me.”

Spoken like a true shoe lover.
“Yes, I will suffer for my fashion.” What shoe are you most proud of? “It’s a boot with a heel that is a knife.”

Wow! That’s a killer fashion statement! [No response]

More from Chanel shoemaker Phillip Atlenza for Maison Massaro on the next page…

Have you worked with gems? “No, but I would like to make a jewelled heel one day.”

Any other standout shoes?
“Yes, this one. It’s one of my strangest requests. It’s a heelless shoe. You can’t photograph it because the customer doesn’t want it reproduced. To wear this, you need strong muscles and experience with this type of height.”

I bet this client can afford diamonds. “I will ask.” [Another change of tack. My goal was to make this man smile. With the assistance of a translator, I continued.]

Are you familiar with solistry? It’s like palmistry, but you read the soles of your feet. “No, I’ve not heard of this.” [Slight smile]

Feet are quite revealing. Dark toe pads signify that you put all your weight on the front of your feet, which means you’re depressed. A callus just under the little toe means you’re carrying too much responsibility. And if your middle toe bends to the side, you’re duplicitous. A lot of spies have this trait. “Ha! [Full-on laugh!] I’m going to the workshop now to see my employees’ feet. My third toe is straight, by the way.” [I wouldn’t have expected anything else from this straight shooter.]

VIDEO: Behind-the-scenes of our June 2012 covershoot featuring Tara Gill in Chanel haute couture.

Read more:

Ateliers behind haute couture: Maison Lemarié

Chanel Spring 2012 Haute Couture

Christian Dior Spring 2012 Haute Couture

Lady Gaga’s most extreme looks