Netch and Bernard (and Madeleine Vionnet) Part 2:
In a previous post about Shoes from Paris to Wear with the New Winter Frocks, from Delineator magazine, October, 1928, I described the shoes by Ducerf Scavini pictured on the left hand page. This post is about the right hand page, with shoes by Netch et Bernard. [Vionnet married Netch (Captain Dimitri Netchvolodoff) in 1923.] Netch et Frater shoes can be seen in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, but I haven’t found any references online to Netch et Bernard. The Delineator article was written by Marie Beynon Ray. Her chief point was that “Many American manufacturers still continue to copy the most bizarre and striking of the French designs, and to cheapen and debase the finer ones,” resulting in a “popular misconception of French chic.”
“The French Revolution in Shoes“
“Ten – a dozen years ago – a shoe was merely a utility, a high boot, buttoned and laced, in brown or black leather, sturdily made to do the heaviest service of any article in the entire wardrobe…. Then came the French revolution in shoes – daytime shoes cut like evening slippers, made of the lightest and most perishable of leathers, and frankly proclaiming themelves articles of luxury…. American manufacturers, missing the spirit of French innovation, seized upon its most superficial characteristics, and produced abortions and eccentricities. The most startling and bizarre styles of the third-rate Parisian bottiers who cater to American gullibility were generally selected as models by manufacturers instead of the restrained and elegant but far less noticeable designs of the master craftsmen; and America was swept by a tidal wave of bad taste in footwear. These snub-nosed, be-ribboned, and be-jazzed atrocities were made and sold by the millions in America….”
The Truly Smart Frenchwoman’s Shoes
The truly smart Frenchwoman’s shoes are designed “to finish the foot inconspicuously and in perfect harmony with the costume…. Her preferred footgear for evening is a plain beige satin slipper or one matching the color of her gown or her other accessories…. Netch et Bernard’s model, labeled Q on these pages, may appear a bit unusual, … as far as any really smart Frenchwoman will ever go on the road to eccentricity; and when you consider that this evening slipper can be made inconspicuously in flesh colored crêpe de Chine, piped with flesh colored kid, to be worn with matching stockings… you will admit that there is nothing bizarre about it.”
Ten Netch et Bernard Shoes, Fall of 1928
There are several pairs of shoes in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection signed Netch and Frater, and dated to the 1930s, but I haven’t found any references to Netch et Bernard. Perhaps the company reorganized between 1928 and 1930, or perhaps Delineator Magazine was in error. Shoes Q and S, which the article decribes as “a bit unusual,” must have been influential, since they appear to be the ancestors of many shoes familiar to vintage dealers. The Met’s collection reminds us of the glorious colors possible.
K. Saddle strap shoe. This is dark brown with darker saddle of unborn calf.
L. One-strap shoe for daytime. Beige and brown kid with woven beading.
M. High-cut pump, brilliant and dull in black patent kid and antelope.
N. Evening pump. Rose-beige satin and gold kid – cut out in ladder design.
O. High-cut slipper of two smart leathers, black patent kid and black lizard.
P. Pump with triangles of gold and silver kid on black patent leather.
Q. Sandal of vermillion crêpe de Chine with bands of silver kid for trimming.
R. Mule of gilded wood. The straps are silver kid encrusted with gold triangles.
S. Evening sandal. A simplified model in flesh crêpe and colored kid.
T. Laughing mask mule. Soft bright blue kid with gold piping and lining. [Viewed from the front, this mule would bear the mask of comedy! In profile, it shows one eye and half of the smiling mouth.]
Netch et Bernard: The Vionnet Connection
“One model, lettered Q and S…may appear… not ornate, but a bit unusual…. Doubtless the design was inspired by the beautiful triangular and V shaped motifs which Madame Vionnet uses so ubiquitously, for the Netch of Netch et Bernard is Madame Vionnet’s husband, and his shoes, shown in conjunction with Vionnet’s dresses, are frequently inspired by her designs…. In many of the models, a touch that is purely classical or geometrical indicates the intention of this bottier to harmonize his shoes with the costumes designed by Vionnet, a feature of which the chic woman may well take advantage.” Although Netch is not often mentioned in connection with Vionnet, Betty Kirke’s Madeleine Vionnet, an extraordinary book, confirms that Netch and Vionnet were married in 1923, and that, “after they married, he supplied the shoes for her salon.” (p. 135) They separated in the 1930s and were divorced in 1943. Monsieur Bernard remains a mystery to me. Here is the relevant text, from Delineator Magazine, October, 1928, page 129: