Designer Shoes in Romans, France
By Alice Feiring
Published: May 1, 2005
he name Romans, a shoecentric town in France, should be branded into the gray matter of the shoe obsessed. Forty-five minutes southeast of Lyon in the Rhone Valley, it was the country's leather-tanning center during the 1800's. By the next century the town turned to manufacturing bespoke and high-end shoes.
Now, ever so slightly seedy, Romans is home to a nifty shoe museum, Muse International de la Chaussure. But more to the point are the factory outlets crammed with gorgeously made shoes. Some names to get the juices going are Stephane Klian, Paraboot, Charles Jourdan, Accessoire Diffusion and a relative newcomer, Laure Bassal, whose colorful flapper-era-inspired designs rarely make it to the United States.
But it is the Robert Clergerie store (also stocking J. Fenestrier shoes for men) just on the outskirts of town that spikes my adrenalin. While the fluorescent lights are reminiscent of to stateside outlet stores, the rich range of sizes and options (including some terrific bags) on the shelves do not. This is a true factory store and not where style mistakes go to die.
Sylvie Bret, store manager, has been with the company since 1981. When I stopped in, she was in a great mood, eagerly sharing the news: her old boss was back. Mr. Clergerie, 70, had just bought back the shoe business he sold seven years before.
Amused by my visit, she said few Americans know Romans. Her best customers are Parisians detouring to the store from their Alps or Provence destinations to shop for boots and shoes generally discounted from 40 to 70 percent. When France goes on sale in mid-January and July, subtract another 40 to 75 percent at the outlets. During these sales, she said, she is very likely to sell 200 pairs daily.
I was thrilled to find a particular pair of ankle-grazing, man-styled oxfords I'd coveted for years for only 95 euros, or $126, at $1.32 to the euro - about $530 off the usual price. A little snug? No problem. She had them stretched, gratis, resulting in a perfect fit. Five pairs later, with prices ranging up from $24, my splurge topped out at $292, far less than a single pair at the full cost.
Robert Clergerie, at Rue Pierre Curie, (33-4) 75.05.59.65, www.robertclergerie.com, is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2 to 7 p.m. on Monday. Closed on Sunday.