Last week, I was honored to be invited to a private press viewing of John Lobb's "Spirits of Capitals" collection at the Hermès men's boutique on Madison Avenue. Though the Hermès Group's regulations prohibited me from snapping my own photos at the exhibition, I was lucky to have a brief chat with John Lobb CEO Renaud Paul-Dauphin, who explained to me the direction the brand was shooting for in the near future. John Lobb wants to dissociate itself from the general misconception that the brand makes only stodgy old men's thick-soled brogues, and instead, aims to bring forward its superb craftsmanship and the timeless yet worldly and almost eclectic character of the long-time boot maker. Paul-Dauphin, a stylish gentleman himself, proudly wore a pair of John Lobb double-monkstraps in tan, each one fascinatingly fashioned out of a single piece of leather.
The "Spirits of Capitals" collection was born out of a challenge for the house of John Lobb to craft a pair of shoes that would embody a city in the world. John Lobb commissioned a number of teams of designers, shoemakers, and clients of different backgrounds: artists, performers, and possibly a couple of private people with bucks to blow. The result is an album of shoes that profoundly exemplify the cities that inspired them.
The Moscow shoe, a boot of course, is distinctly Russian.
In browns of differing shades and textures, they were inspired by a bespoke order made for a Russian opera singer particularly renowned at the beginning of the last century. The client's initials are hand-embroidered in Cyrillic letters on the heel of the ankle boot.
the Moscow ankle boot in 166 box-calf, wagtail box and tobacco brown suede
What could be more English than green and brown? These boots in cotton canvas and calfskin are unmistakably London.
the London low boot in gold Barenia calfskin and khaki canvas
The Beijings, with the suede and the zippy lateral elastic strap sheathed in leather (which would allow for flexibility and ease of wear and removal), are forward and pragmatic.
Beijing oxfords in green grey suede with pearl grey piping
The New York shoes are, I think, quite remarkable. They're almost downtown New York in their offbeatness, and in this colorway of dark pink with antique blue box leather, they are unlike any other.
New York oxfords in dark pink box paired with antique blue finish box
The heart-shaped "tongue" sent my heart a-flutter.
The Taipei mocassins looked immensely wearable, and the accent of the bamboo-hued crocodile was, I think, just right.
Taipei moccasins in oxford mink calfskin and bamboo crocodile
But if I were to have a piece of the collection, it would have to be the Tokyo boots, which I might have cradled in my arm a little too long for security to not take notice. They were sleek, simple without being boring, and (I don't know if I've used this word on the blog before but) darn, were they sexy. I think they are somewhat reminiscent of the elegance of Japanese pagodas: stately and almost ethereal, yet brought down to earth by the 100% wood construction that had to be rebuilt every few years.
Tokyo low boot in blue box-calf with a black finish.
It would pain me to have to choose between the two colorways. The first, in blue-black, exemplified understated dandy with the rich sapphire hue gleaming only in direct sunlight. But the same boot in tobacco brown suede with rose gold hardware (!) calls to me with a bedroom voice.
Tokyo low boot in tobacco brown suede with rose gold hardware. Note the spool-shaped heel on this one.
All the shoes in the collection are fully customizable: change the leather, swap the heel, John Lobb would tailor it to a client's specifications, for a price. Think of it as the ultimate DIY collaborative experience. Gentlemen around the world, how astutely do you think Lobb embodies your city? If your metropolis of residence isn't in the collection, what shoe would you have them make for you?