The Surprising Link Between Renault, Josephine Baker & A Century-Old Shoe Brand

French car manufacturer Renault is no stranger to unexpected partnerships. Its founder, French industrialist Louis Renault, was the first automobile manufacturer to collaborate with a footwear label.

It was a century ago in 1920 when Renault commissioned Hellstern & Sons — a now defunct French heritage shoe brand — to create an old-fashioned ski boot to match one of his vehicles. At the time, Hellstern was a dance shoe label and a favorite of famed performer Josephine Baker. As for the boot in question, it could possibly be the earliest ever example of something that’s ubiquitous in fashion today: a footwear collaboration.

As it turns out, the car manufacturer’s current design director, Laurens van den Acker, has a thing or two in common with its founder.

The Hellstern shoe was on display last week in Paris at a showcase for the new Renault Captur car at Renault’s Avenue des Champs-Élysées showroom. The event also served to unveil a present-day collaboration sneaker that van den Acker cocreated with Le Coq Sportif creative director Frédéric Pertusier to match the new car.

hellstern & sons
A boot created by Renault founder Louis Renault in partnership with heritage French shoe label Hellstern & Sons, which was a favorite of Josephine Baker.
CREDIT: Renault

The partnership between the two brands stems from Le Coq’s sponsoring the Renault Formula 1 racing team. “We’re both passionate about design and it’s nice to have cross-pollination between brands,” said van den Acker.

A sneakerhead himself, van den Acker has been creating custom sneakers to match new car models for the last 20 years, starting in the early 2000’s when he was working for Mazda in Japan. He also caused quite a stir at the time when he wore sneakers with his suits — something seen as uncommon in a conservative industry. This led to van den Acker creating personalized footwear versions to match the cars. “The car industry can by quite myopic,” he said, “so I wanted to do something to make it more connected.”

Having previously teamed up with brands from Guerlain to Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Le Coq is also a master of unexpected collaborations. “They give us the chance to see how far we can push the brand when you bring in a fresh pair of eyes,” said Pertusier.

Like its Hellstern forerunner, the Le Coq shoe is a one-off style, made especially for van den Acker. As for the future, however, both brands are open to producing limited-edition runs, so watch this space more news in the future.

Renault, Le Coq
Renault has collaborated with Le Coq Sportif on an exclusive sneaker to match its new Captur car.
CREDIT: Renault
hellstern & sons
A boot created by Renault founder Louis Renault in partnership with heritage French shoe label, Hellstern & Sons, a favorite of Josephine Baker.
CREDIT: Renault


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