The philosopher’s shoe: In conversation with Louis Sarkozy

He’s the son of the former French President Nicolas, and the step-son of the glorious Carla Bruni. But Louis Sarkozy is his own man — as his latest project testifies.

“Sarko_Junior”. That’s what the Instagram handle says, at least. And yes, perhaps there’s something of the elder statesman about Louis Sarkozy — the kind of old-before-his-time wisdom that occurs when, say, your childhood is filled with governmental departments and armed motorcades.

But Louis is his own man entirely, with the inches to prove it (young Louis is 6ft to papa Nicholas’s 5ft 5in). The second son of the former French premier — and step son of model and singer Carla Bruni — Louis left Paris for the US in his teens, where he joined the notoriously rigorous Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania. Baby Sarko quickly surrendered all contact with the outside world, and his family assumed he’d never make it through the horrific six-week induction period. But he lasted the full four years — and has been grateful for that brutal and peculiarly American education ever since.

Still, Louis’ latest undertaking is about as French as they come. Along with business partner and pal Pablo Gómez-Lechón Barrachina, Sarko Junior has released a new range of loafers inspired by great intellectuals of the past century. No, really — there’s the Sigmund, the Curie, the Thomas Jefferson, as well as impromptu modelling gigs for modern thinkers like Steven Pinker.

Here, France’s former first son and philosopher prince talks Freudian loafers, rubbish ties and why Mark Zuckerberg is the most stylish man in the world (possibly).

Louis with architect Robert Stern in the T.J (Thomas Jefferson) loafers

Louis with architect Robert Stern in the T.J (Thomas Jefferson) loafers

How did you first come to be involved with Boonper?

Pablo and Victoria Falomir first contacted me via social media for an advertising collaboration. When I saw the quality of their products, and their professionalism, I asked them if they wanted to work on a special project with me. They agreed and the Enigma Collection was born.

I have just come back from a three-week trip around Spain with Pablo, where we got to know each other in depth. He is not only an ideal partner — he has become a valuable influence and intimate friend. Most of our success is due to him and Victoria, who both do an amazing job. But now, they are much more important to me as friends than as business partners.

What does the name Boonper mean?

The name Boonper has no meaning in particular. It was the sum of letters that sound good to us and can be easily said in any language. In the case of the Enigma Collection, the name comes from the game of trying to guess which figure has inspired each of the shoes.

Why did you decide to base the collection around philosophers and thinkers?

Firstly, because these are areas that are within our interest. I have studied philosophy for the past couple of years at NYU, and Pablo and Victoria are both extremely well read. Secondly, the team and I agreed that this was an area yet untouched by mainstream fashion. We see constant collaborations between athletes and artists with brands, but very rarely are academics and public intellectuals thrust onto the stage. We just happen to think their message is as worthy to be put forth.

Are you a philosophical person yourself? If so, how would you sum up your personal philosophy in one line?

“Do not listen to anybody who can sum up their philosophical opinions in one line.”

Are the French more philosophically-minded than other nationalities, do you think?

The French surely have a heavy philosophical history. The existentialist movement post WWII, with thinkers such as Sartre, Camus and De Beauvoir, has shaped western philosophy in more ways than one. And as somewhat of an existentialist myself, I am particularly interested in that history. Prior to that, the French have also contributed marvellous works to the history of atheistic and individualistic thought, like Voltaire or Diderot. I wouldn’t say we have a richer history than everybody else, but it surely is within the top.

You joined military school as a young man. How did your time at the Valley Forge Academy influence your later projects?

Without Valley Forge I would be a very different person. There is not a single aspect of my life which would be the same if I didn’t attend that institution. I spent perhaps my four most formative years, adolescent years, in that bizarre environment, and today I am thankful, and perhaps a bit proud, of it. But after four years, I wanted to taste civilian life. And you know what? It tastes pretty good.

How does the design process for each shoe work?

We first come up with the thinker we want to honour. Once that is done, we research their personalities, we read their works and speeches, and look for anecdotes that we could convey. After that, the stylistic aspect is left in the hands of the talented Pablo and Victoria, who have an infinitely better grasp on the taste of the market than I could ever wish for.

Carla Bruni, one of the world’s most stylish women, is your step mother. What style lessons did you take from her growing up?

Her character, humour, integrity and culture have influenced me far more than her style ever could.

Do you plan to make women’s shoes at all? Will Carla model them?

Women’s shoes are coming out very soon! And yes, if she will have us, we would be more than honoured to have Carla be part of our campaign.

Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker

Who are your business idols?

I don’t have many. Although I have to say I support and respect Elon Musk more than any other businessman in the world. Here is an individual thoroughly motivated by the advancement of science and protection of the environment. If all his business ventures are accomplished, we might be able to use brain-computer interfaces, reduce our carbon emissions, and initiate space colonisation. I want to live in the future he is actively trying to build.

Who do you think is the most stylish man in the world currently?

Mark Zuckerberg.

What style lessons did you take from your father?

Forget colourful ties.

Why do you think American men traditionally dress so badly compared to Europeans?

It seems in the US there is very little emphasis placed on fashion. It is not that much of a socio-economic statement, nor is there for the most part a ‘trend’ mentality. Europeans are much more judgmental when it comes to clothing, and I’m not so sure we are all the better for it.

Would you ever go into politics yourself?

It is not out of the question. We will see what time has in store for me…

For more advice from stylish men, read what happened when we sat down with Sam Way to talk books, music and getting suited and booted… 

Gentlemen's Journal is happy to partner with The Prince’s Trust RISE campaign, which is working to create a network of young adults aged between 21-45, who are passionate about social mobility. You can become a Prince’s Trust Riser by donating just £20 per month to the scheme.
Get Involved

Further reading