Louis Sarkozy is no fashion aficionado.
In fact, he says, he and fashion industry insider Pablo Gómez-Lechón were recently denied entry into a “rather fancy hotel” in Barcelona “because I’ve worn the same sneakers for the past three weeks. I’m much more of a utilitarian when it comes to what I wear,” Sarkozy says. “It’s about comfort, utility, and simplicity.”
And certainly, the 22-year-old son of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy never dreamed of entering the fashion business. But when Gómez-Lechón, who’s the founding partner of the Spanish loafer boutique Boonper, reached out to Sarkozy on social media about advertising a pair of shoes on his Instagram page, the two teamed up and created Boonper’s Enigma collection.
Sarkozy, who studied philosophy and history at New York University, originally had the idea to create a line of accessories that would stylishly and discreetly honor the great intellectuals of the past, from scientists to writers. When he saw the quality and comfort Boonper provided, and the versatility of driving shoes—which suit his utilitarian style—he thought it the perfect fit.
“There’s room to grow, there’s room to be creative, and there’s room to tell stories, as long as it’s subtle,” he says. “It’s called the ‘Enigma Collection’ because in an ideal world, you pick up the shoes, and you get to the very symbols, colors, designs, and fabrics of who the shoes are referencing.”
The Enigma Collection’s first line, which launched this past spring, features four styles, each paying homage to a historically significant figure: Marie Curie, Sigmund Freud, William Shakespeare, and Thomas Jefferson.
“They’re famous enough to be recognized by all, but also specified in different academic fields,” Sarkozy says, which is why he pitched these four, among a few others, to Gómez-Lechón and Boonper’s other founding partner, Victoria Falomir.
Sarkozy says he enjoyed dissecting the work and lives of the four thinkers who inspired the first line of the Enigma Collection.
“For example, to consume the enormous work of Madame Curie in two or three eloquent and discrete symbols, it’s a fun mission,” he says.
For the “Curie” shoe, Sarkozy and his team landed on an imprint from Curie’s journal entry from the day she isolated radium and a radioactive symbol. The “Sigmund” moccasin sports a dreamcatcher, while the “TJ” pays tribute to the 13 original colonies. The “William” is inscribed with Romeo’s famous final line from Romeo and Juliet.
The handmade leather loafers also diverge from other designer shoes when it comes to price—the four styles range from US$330 to US$365, while most high-end loafers run between US$500 and US$700. The collection is sold internationally online and will soon hit its first storefront at a retailer in Paris.
To model the shoes, Sarkozy and his team worked with photographer and the New Yorker journalist Nicolas Niarchos, who paired each style with a modern version of its past intellectual. For example, New York architect Robert A. M. Stern modeled the Jefferson-inspired loafer, and Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker was photographed in the Sigmund.
Boonper plans to expand thecollection to women’s shoes and other men’s styles in the coming seasons, and Sarkozy—who says his first foray into the world of fashion has been “tremendously fun”—sees the potential for the collection to expand into other accessories, such as belts and wallets.
“I want this to be a very long-term relationship because it’s fun to have this little project and also try to sell our little baby that we came up with and to make it grow,” he says.