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It all began in the late nineteenth century in Izeaux, a small village at the foot of the Alps. Rémy-Alexis Richard, born in 1878 into a humble farming family, became a semi-skilled cutter at Chevron, one of a score of shoe factories in this Isère village.
In 1910, Rémy went up to Paris to developed his activity. He met there Juliette Pontvert, the daughter of a wealthy notary in the Sarthe region. He married her and they founded together the Richard-Pontvert company. He provided his knowhow, designs and equipment; she contributed her dowry money as capital. Rémy launched the "Chaussures Extra" brand – and a collection of fine high-end shoes.
Being injured during war, he has been sent away from the front. Rémy was put in charge of repairing the army’s shoes, harnesses and other equipment. At the end of the war he returned to his business, which was quite successful. He rented and then bought premises and a warehouse close to Les Halles market in Paris, bringing him closer to his clients: department stores and small boutiques, frequented by butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers at Les Halles.
In 1926, although he didn’t speak a word of English, he set sail for the United States. With an eye for innovation, he noticed the rubber “boots” worn by the Americans, and above all the assets of this brand-new material, also known as latex, hevea or gum. This was an epiphany for him. He returned with this material and knowhow to Tullins Fures, a small town close to Izeaux, where he had just bought a new factory building.
Rémy began manufacturing boots that were guaranteed to be waterproof, with "layers" of latex added by hand on wooden lasts and vulcanised in stoves.
He then had the idea of using this rubber to replace wooden soles. These were inexpensive but uncomfortable and tended to wear out too quickly.
Rémy just needed to find the right technique: at that time, the leather uppers of shoes were either nailed to wooden soles or sewn onto leather soles. Neither technique was possible with rubber soles.
He therefore developed a system using fine rubber soles which could be sewn to the upper and then glued with liquid latex to a thicker rubber sole.
The only remaining problem was vulcanisation; an old walnut oil press made it possible to bake, and thus vulcanise, these shoes in steel moulds, using the principle of the waffle iron. Henceforth, the working shoes are all endowed with rubber soles, distinctive sign of Richard Pontvert’s production.
Rémy Richard registered the Paraboot name in 1927, from "Para" – a port in Amazonia, where the latex was exported from, and "boot" – the interesting new shoe he had discovered in the United States.
Julien, Rémy Richard's son, enters the company in 1937. He is 20 years old, the War, followed by the Occupation, obviously slowed down production.
The war led to the development of the chemicals industry. Synthetic materials appeared, as did glues, which were to revolutionize shoe construction methods.
New shoe factories opened, adopting plastic soles from the outset. These were simply glued to lighter uppers – a simpler construction technique requiring less qualified workers. These cheaper "disposable" shoes were better suited to a clientele that wanted to consume after having been deprived for so long.
The old manufacturing centres disappeared; they were incapable of making the change. At that time Richard-Pontvert had about fifty workers.
Julien, by then alone at the helm, was faced with a dilemma; should he change his manufacturing methods (and the company’s spirit) and adopt "gluing" as all the others were doing, or persevere, targeting his clients more closely?
Julien Richard, more passionate about nature, hunting and angling, did not care a lot for the city. He refocused production on impressive thick leather soles. Still using Goodyear or "Norwegian construction, these were aimed at people working in a standing position; farmers, horse dealers, lumberjacks, shepherds, factory and postal workers, and craftsmen who needed to be able to rely on sturdy but comfortable shoes.
Parallel with a technical lace-up boot, he created a few "light-duty" models for architects, surveyors and veterinary surgeons. And so, the "Morzine" model came into being. In 1945, it was the legendary “Michael” that saw the light.
In 1970, Gil Delamare and Colette Duval, fiancés from heaven, were at the origin of special models for the France parachuting team, holders of the world title. Then there was Paul-Emile Victor and his special Terre Adélie boots in 1971. Haroun Tazieff wore Paraboot to examine volcanoes and André Turcat, a Concorde and Airbus pilot, was the inspiration for a model that is still worn by Mirage pilots. The worlds of motorbiking, horse riding and cross-country skiing follow. Richard-Pontvert manufactured all sorts of technical shoes and even opened the Alviera ice skate factory in 1972.