Sarkis Der Balian – The master of the Armenian school of footwear design

Among all the bottiers and shoemakers gone abroad after the diaspora following WWI, the most prominent became Sarkis Der Balian, a native of Aintab in Cilicia. One of the many orphaned children, he learned the trade in the postwar period with the shoemaker who took care of him and, when grown up, set off for France to seek his own fortune.

Der Balian worked at several ateliers in Paris, including Enzel in the ’30s as technical director, then at Cécil and also as a consultant for footwear industries like Unic. In the 40s he opened his own atelier in Rue de la Sourdière and later in Rue Saint-Honoré.

He left his mark in Italy as well, winning with his shoe “Flora” the award for artistic creations at the Bologna Fair back in 1955 (picture here below). Apparently Der Balian also worked with shoemakers and heel makers from the Milan area (SS 33) but the source is yet to be verified so that we prefer to omit the names while we search for more data. He loved to make artistic shoes reproducing famous cities, including Zurich and Paris, with thousands of multicolored tiny leather cutouts.

Der Balian worked until 1995, a year before his death. His models were chosen, among others, by Marie Curie, Salvador Dali, Henri Salvador, Jean Anouilh.

The Museum of Romans sur Isere houses a collection of 374 pieces of his work, made between the 30s and the 60s.

  • Marie-Josèphe Bossan
  • The Art of the Shoe/L’Art de la Chaussure | Parkstone 2004
  • Gēorg A. Sarafian, Kevork Avedis Sarafian
  • A briefer history of Aintab: a concise history of the cultural, religious, educational, political, industrial and commercial life of the Armenians of Aintab
  • Union of the Armenians of Aintab, 1957
  • Joconde
  • Portail des collections des musées de France

Taken from Varouj Mavlian

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