French bootmaking and the feminization of the profession

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

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

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

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.


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