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Fred de la Bretonière
Friday, Nov 26, 2010, 5:05 PM / Netherlands
For every sole a soul
For someone who claims to tell a story with every pair of shoes he designs, Fred de la Bretonière remains difficult to reach to tell his own. Celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, the passionately conceived accessories brand has become a legend, maintaining style and quality that are hard to top today when things are often so short-lived and interchangeable.
Fred de la Bretonière was born in 1944 in Amsterdam. For someone like him, with creative personality and fascination and talent for technology, the obvious choice was to study at the Royal Art Academy in the Hague. Successful as an artist, Fred held several exhibitions, before creating a few designs for shoes and bags and discovering his passion and his ultimate ambition. Looking at women with an artist’s eye, Fred would design shoes that would enhance their personality, and bags women would love and want to keep for years.
In 1970 Fred showed his first designs to the department store De Bijenkorf. He recalls: “One day I was invited by a purchaser to show my bags. I went up there with a heavy suitcase and I was angry when she let me inside – they had me wait! The buyers just shook their heads and said, ‘No that’s too expensive.’ I did not know what to expect, but said I would not sell for less, and took everything back. I was almost out the door when one of the buyers said, ‘Hey angry young man, shall we meet for lunch?’ He liked my bags, and wanted to immediately order 600.”
Bags were then manufactured by squatters in Amsterdam under Fred’s supervision. The story of a young designer with dynamic can-do attitude was a good press opportunity, and soon Fred de la Bretonière bags and shoes were seen in magazines and films, and in 1976 Fred was voted the best shoe designer of the Netherlands. Soon after, in 1978, the brand was showcased first time at the prêt-a-porter in Paris and was enthusiastically acclaimed by international press and buyers. Fred continued developing his business and designs and soon after launched the boots collection. At the same time, the distribution part of the business began to flourish too, with stores in Amsterdam, Haarlem, Utrecht, Den Bosch and The Hague.
Fred could have stopped right there, just enjoying his success and the momentum. But he never did and never thought of it, and instead began experimenting with leather, visiting many leather tanneries to see the process first hand. Once, while watching the tanners at work he shouted “Stop, otherwise you will make it too beautiful!” Fred always wanted pure and natural leather with a patina, and that has remained his basic design principle, resulting in an ‘unfinished’ style where a shoe or a boot becomes more attractive the longer it is worn.
His famous Shabbies Amsterdam label, launched in 2000, follows this mantra. Typically Shabbies feature a frayed edge accent on the boot shaft, have a round toe and a thick rubber sole, with a used effect of the outer leather that makes them unmistakably cool. Fred’s designs are both sturdy and nonchalant, yet there is an incredible attention to detail perfected in each product. Fred says they have a soul, and what’s more, anyone who wears his designs can add a little of their own soul too.
On October 24th, 2010 Fred de la Bretonière was awarded with the shoe Oscar, the Santi Crispino de Crispiano Award, named after the patron saint of shoemakers. The award, in its 30th edition now, is considered the highest recognition of craftsmanship and excellence in design in the shoemaking industry, and is curated by the National Association of Italian Shoe Manufacturers (ANCI).
Fred de la Bretonière lines are manufactured exclusively in Netherlands, Portugal and Italy. Fred de la Bretonière has seven of its own stores in the Netherlands and Belgium, and collections are sold in around 450 shops worldwide, including Germany, Scandinavia, Belgium, France, Russia, Japan and Italy.
Studio Fred de la Bretoniere
Professor Asserweg 20a
5144 NC Waalwijk
T: 0031 (0) 416 322 556
F: 0031 (0) 416 322 590
For wholesale and press enquiries please email info(at)bretoniere.nl
Natasha Binar | TribaSpace
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