Paraboot – Mother Nature’s Premium Side
Text: Tommy Corlito
If we’re going to do this properly, then we ask that you join HHV at the heart of late nineteenth century Izeaux as we explore the forgotten past of Alps-born footwear brand, Paraboot. Paraboot was launched with the sole purpose of improving everyday wear for those addicted to Mother Nature’s premium side – stylised explorers amidst concrete jungles.
It’s 1878, we’re sat beside Rémy-Alexis Richard as he sets to work on cutting leather panels within a small Alpine-based shoe factory. Upon realising that city-based clients were actually earning more than his seniors, Rémy set his sights on Paris – posing as a ‘factory agent’ whilst pitching portfolio sketches of his own.
With all great hero-stories comes success – Rémy’s plan worked! Soon, his first designs would hit production.
One bout of victory inspired another, in 1908 he began hiring staff to sustain internal growth.
Two years later, Rémy met and married a certain Juliette Pontvert via one of this many agents – in fact, it just so happened that Miss Pontvert derived from a wealthy family in Grand-Ouest, Sarthe. Juliette supported Rémy’s growth with dowry funding, laying foundations for progression as a collection of high-end shoes beneath the “Chaussures Extra” tagline emerged, growing in popularity during War-time and carrying momentum post-conflict.
From a fresh warehouse vantage point in close proximity to Les Halles market, Rémy could hone in on department stores, small boutiques and those aware of his footwear excellence.
Soon enough, factory number one was purchased in Izeaux and the “Galibier” trademark registered two years beyond that.
Rémy’s craving for progress took him into all new territory, exploring areas void of his native French-tongue by honing in on trends that gripped the United States of America. It was from American streets that Paraboot adopted rubberised layering, adding a water-tight element to what was already a well-rounded canvas – extending practical reach from the many, to the masses.
Seemingly, this fresh market sported a particular penchant for gum, hevea or latex as we currently know it, leaving Rémy no choice but to bridge vulcanisation with handmade wooden lasts.
Whilst not the first to ‘proof his prototypes using the natural shield, Rémy was the first to recognise a necessity for notched-sole boot tread underfoot – reinventing what it meant to be a mountain boot 11 years before Mr Vital ‘Vibram’ Bramani himself.
This technique would replace your standard wooden sole once a binding technique was devised away from needlecraft or nail fastening.
Alas, liquid latex was the answer to upper-by-sole hitching. Much like a multi-tiered dessert, low-profile rubber soles were sewn beneath leather panels, only to be mounted by thick-set outsoles vulcanised using Rémy’s locally skewed walnut oil press. Manufacturing means comparable to waffle iron moulding.
It wouldn’t be until 1927 that Paraboot became a registered brand. Post-sole refinement, post-wooden lug fulfilment and beyond mountain-wear, Paraboot was a namesake of the Amazonian port supporting latex export, alongside an ‘English-sounding’ footwear ‘boot’ label. In one decade’s time, son Julien would join his father’s company and continue to drive an ethos of wearable luxury for those pursuing physically strenuous tasks day-in, day-out – those who needed them most.
In 1945, Paraboot’s epochal ‘Michael’ shoe saw the light of day, snatching the work-boot podium from beneath Galibier’s feet thus lessenign their competitor’s grip on adventure sports as a whole. Paraboot pipped their rivals at every turn, before conquering recreational pleasure on a global scale.
Does Herzog ring a bell? Mazeaud? How about Terray, Desmaison or Pollet-Villard? These are just a few of the legendary names to lace Paraboot athletic-wear greatness on-foot.
As quickly as Paraboot grew, dark shadows overcast the strides taken from skiing, to adventure-wear and the crimped Michael. A post-war market struck Julien’s empire with force, ushering logistics in the direction of Michel Richard – his son, a commendably talented graduate of multinationals. Simply-put, his task was to save Paraboot, prolonging a legacy for future generations without major loss to business. To cut a long story short, Michel’s six year battle with cost-balancing, elevated brandwide productivity and core staff streamlining resulted in one rejected file for bankruptcy. The Unions and Trade tribunal believed a recovery of Paraboot was possible – so, in 1983 Michel hatched a plan.
He found a solution in Italy, crossing paths with a garment distributor as they searched for the perfect silhouette to accompany their modern perception of male-styling. By setting his sights on answers to manufacturing qualms, Michel had incidentally answered WP Lavori In Corso’s research surrounding male footwear via means of Paraboot’s Michael style,
Paraboot was saved by the Michael, period – a subsequent essential over 70 years later.
It is at this point that Paraboot rejoins HHV in the noughties, bearing a fresh approach to wearability enveloped by specified womenswear lines, high-end orientation and shopfronts spanning from Paris and Lyon to Nice.
Modern financial limitation and environmental responsibilities triggered the closure of Izeaux production lines, reopening in the westerly Saint Jean de Moirans over 15 years after being passed onto a forth generation. Attributing now-owner, Michel Richard, Paraboot is one of very few brands imposing an entire aesthetic sculpted, refined and executed in France to this day.
So, that’s it. This is Paraboot, these are the dark moments and those are occasions beneath a prestige-tinted spotlight.
If you didn’t know, now you certainly do – Paraboot was the originator of revolutionised rural comfort, continually breaking industrial confines and re-moulding templates to suit their developmental dynamic.
Paraboot is more than just footwear, Paraboot is the result of four generations in product development. What you see before your eyes came as no stroke of luck; simply put, Rémy’s legacy cannot be forgotten, green labels and all.
Discover Paraboot footwear at HHV, online and in-store.