Jean-Michel Casalonga

Master Bootmaker

My  Métier d’Excellence 

I’m a Master Bootmaker, which means I make bespoke shoes that are crafted entirely by hand. I first meet with my clients several times to understand exactly what they want. Then I have them try on an initial model. And finally I present the finished shoes to them. The entire process takes about nine months.  I make the wooden last – which replicates the interior shape of the shoe – and then I supervise the key steps in the process, the upper, assembly and lastly, creating the patina.

The most important things you need for this métier

Listening and empathy are absolutely essential to really understand the client. To create the best possible shoes for them you have to understand their tastes and wishes. An open mind is equally essential because you have to put your own preferences aside to respect those of the client. And the last thing I think is curiosity, because the skill of an artisan springs from a desire to always do better, which in turn means looking at how things are done elsewhere, in other disciplines for example, in order to continually keep improving.


One day the wife of a client was visibly moved when her husband tried on his pair of shoes. She looked at me and said: “I never thought I’d feel such emotion simply watching my husband put on his shoes.” That was a very powerful experience for me. In fact that’s what I love most about this métier, making someone completely happy when they receive their shoes and, more broadly, presenting someone with a product that I’m really proud of.

Passing on the métier to new generations

This is absolutely essential for me. There are certain techniques, like crafting a last from a block of wood, that you just cannot learn in a classroom. That’s why it’s so critical to pass on our savoir-faire, to make sure it doesn’t simply disappear. Berluti is one of the only remaining shoemakers in the world to make wooden lasts. I was taught this skill when I began, and I certainly wouldn’t want it to pass away when I do.