Meet Olivier Rabbath: Frenchman, Philosopher, and Jack of Many Trades

From his little shop in Boerum Hill, Olivier Rabbath, 51, makes magic. Born in Paris, he moved to the states in 1987 pursuing his love for fashion and boots. He felt France was too focused on the old world, which didn’t give him room to expand and grow. He worked in Miami, making thousands of boots by hand, before moving to New York and opening up shop in Brooklyn.

He’s created well over 30,000 boots in his lifetime, and that’s not even mentioning everything else he’s done. He’s also a cartoonist, painter, graphic designer, media designer, decorator, composer, writer, and inventor (to name a few).

Even after all these years, life fills Rabbath with wonder, excitement, and energy. He says while his friends age around him, he maintains his vitality by being passionate about what he does and living in the moment.

His shop, How To Make Books from Your Garage, is a place of “magic,” according to Rabbath. There, he teaches groups of aspiring-shoe makers his art. He says in this tough economy it’s important that people feel proud about the work they do and have fun doing it. By empowering his students and encouraging them to turn their new hobby into a career, he hopes to influence a new generation that will be less reliant upon big companies and mass-produced goods.

“What we’re doing here is beautiful,” he said. “We’re getting in touch with our roots.”

He also has a gift for gab, and many of his conversations delve into the universal and philosophical.

Here are some sounds from his shop and some of his thoughts on boots, consumerism, and life.

Rabbath has machines for shaping soles, cutting leather, and stiching shoes together:

[audio:|titles=Shoemaking Sounds]

He has a love-hate relationship with his home city, Paris. He says it’s beautiful but too focused on the past. He enjoys New York’s ever-evolving attitude and it’s bend towards change:

[audio:|titles=Paris vs New York]

He says people must take their time when learning a skill, recalling his experience as an amateur shoemaker in Paris. While there, he sized the shoes wrong, so some women were wearing a 12-size shoe when they should have been wearing, say, a nine:

[audio:|titles=Ladies Boots]

Rabbath believes Henry Ford’s approach to product making is entirely wrong. His ideal future is one where products are shaped organically, away from factories and production lines, in people’s homes, which act as their shops:

[audio:|titles=Mr Ford]

He also says science has dealt humankind a bad card, and emphasizes the importance of art and creativity in the evolution of our species.


Rabbath would like us to shed our post-Victorian tendencies and embrace our past, one where we were more creatively impulsive and connected to nature:


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