90 years of know-how and style
Often imitated, never equalled. For 90 years now, sandals from the K.Jacques workshop have been worn by diligent elegant women with creative minds. We explore a Saint-Tropez success story.
By Julie de los Rios
© DR Le fondateur de la marque, Jacques Keklikian, dans son atelier en 1976. Tout un art de la sandale bien faite, pérennisé aujourd'hui par une trentaine d'artisans formés en interne.
Loved by Picasso, Romy, Cocteau, and Brigitte Bardot.
The story began in 1933, when Jacques and Elise Keklikian, a couple of Armenian refugees, settled in Saint-Tropez. In their workshop and store in the centre of the village, self-taught Jacques made the sandals while Elise took care of sales. Their footwear was an instant hit! Refined and robust, the Tropezian and Roman sandal-maker built a solid reputation for itself. After the war, the couple moved a few metres down the street, but kept their historic store, which is still open today. In the 1950s, the workshop was instrumental in the development of the seaside town, which attracted a huge range of artists and celebrities. Pablo Picasso and his wife Jacqueline Roque, Romy Schneider and Jean Cocteau were all fans of the brand. Brigitte Bardot even owns several pairs. The guestbook is a testament to that enthusiasm, the precious treasure and brand archives list more than 2,700 styles. Like the original Homère model, the Caravelle sandal, with an ankle strap, launched in 1966, the minimalist Epicure spartan from 2000 or the Zenobie shoe from 2010 all tell the story of fashion and the evolution of style.
A unique patina
From patternmaking to sole-cutting, from stitching to assembly, right through to the finishing touches, each pair is made by hand by around 30 craftsmen who have been trained in-house to master the 50 steps required to make the sandals. The charm of K.Jacques sandals is that they gradually acquire a patina on their leather, which comes from French, Spanish and Italian tanneries. The brand’s semi-personalised service means you can choose from 250 leather materials, colours and finishes, including exotic skins!
Each year, 45,000 pairs leave the 900 m2 factory, which is now based in an industrial park, to be sent to the K.Jacques boutiques (two in Saint-Tropez and one in Paris) but also to the 300 points of sale on five continents.
On the catwalks
Another tour de force by K.Jacques, which has been a Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant [living heritage company] since 2011, is that it has attracted some of the biggest names in fashion. Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Isabel Marant requested that the workshop provide footwear for the models in their fashion shows. K.Jacques also knows how to generate interest, by collaborating with others such as the Italian brand Golden Goose in 2005 and the New York store Opening Ceremony in 2010. The latest collaboration, in 2023, is with the brand known as Call It By Your Name: it has produced three emblematic sandal designs inspired by colourful bandanas that you won’t want to take off.