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French bootmaking and the feminization of the profession

By Odile Mopin

8 Dec 2021

Fashion

CNC

Bootmaking remains one of the "guardians of the temple" of excellence of French craftsmanship. The 13th Rencontres du Cuir, organised by the CNC (Conseil National du Cuir) this past November, honoured this profession, which is characterised by an increasing feminization and varied training paths.

Among leather craftsmen, 70 percent are women and 30 percent are men, according to the Observatory of Fashion Textile and Leather Professions. Nevertheless, this distribution varies according to the trades practised. Thus, while women represent 80 percent of the workforce in leather goods, men are predominantly present in the upstream trades: raw hides and skins, tannery and tannery. Two thirds are men and one third are women in this sector.

Bootmaking is a special case because the feminization began later than other sectors, only appearing in 2004: the year the apprenticeship program was opened to women. A salutary decision for the profession itself, which today knows a total parity and gives rise to many female reconversions. Like that of Audrey Benguerine, a former information systems project manager, who shared her experience at the event: after three years of evening classes, she decided to take her bootmaker's CAP as an independent candidate, and then joined Maison Corthay as a stitcher.

Another "spectacular" conversion was that of Laura Puntillo, associate of master bootmaker Philippe Atienza. An anthropologist and designer by training, her revelation came during an exhibition devoted to Maurice Arnoult. She then joined the Maurice Arnoult Association to train as a bootmaker. Laura Puntillo has come full circle since she is now a trainer within the association and is dedicated to the creation of women's shoes.

A wide range of training courses

The Compagnons du Devoir represent 80 percent of the students trained at the CAP bootmaker level. From the CAP to the Bac Pro, via the Tour de France, it is the reference training organization for the bootmaker profession. Nevertheless, other lesser-known courses in training centers offer "shoe" specialties. The specialization is then done in the workshop, during internships or alternating courses. The National Society of the Best Workers in France (SNMOF) has been organizing a competition for apprentices for about ten years: the MAF (Best Apprentice in France). This competition is not a diploma, unlike the title "One of the Best Craftsmen in France", which is recognized by the national education system. Finally, for those over 25 years old, several continuing education programs are offered by the AFPA (the national agency for adult education), Pôle Emploi and the Centre Technique du Cuir.

"We are present at a large number of training fairs. We very often meet profiles of former executives and employees, and mostly women, who want to retrain in our trades in search of meaning and manual creation," said Frank Boehly, President of the Conseil National du Cuir during this day.

In order to reinforce the attractiveness of its employer brand, the National Chamber of Bootmakers has produced the film "French bootmaking from know-how to innovation" to present and promote the boot making professions. Committed, the CSNB is also at the initiative of the operation "Shoes for Life'' with several partners, including the National Leather Council. This raffle for research and the fight against cancer will be officially launched on February 4, 2022. The winners will receive a pair of custom-made shoes. The leather craft industry is experiencing a real craze. Driven by luxury brands and the influence of French know-how, these sectors of activity represent a breeding ground for employment, with a high level of know-how.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR, translated and edited to English by Kelly Press.