French Shoemaker since 1934

  • Fall-winter
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Michael Veith opened the doors to his Jaegerthal estate for our 2018 autumn/winter collection. Like its owner, the estate combines elegance, natural curiosity and a taste for beautiful things. In this interview, he tells us a little bit about his world, what inspires him and his Heschung connection.

Can you introduce yourself?

I would describe myself as an artist who likes beautiful things and an expert in bonsais and extraordinary gardens. I split my time between Heidelberg, Hamburg and Jaegerthal.

Where are we here? Can you tell us a bit about the history of this place?

Here, we are in the Jaegerthal estate, in the heart of the Northern Vosges regional natural park, near Niederbronn-les-Bains. It’s the birthplace of De Dietrich family who bought their first foundry here 350 years ago.

The estate, the most beautiful site in Jaegerthal, includes:

the Maison de la Turbine, where I live, which is both my think tank and energy source

• the old school and the presbytery, which I completely renovated and now rent out to visitors
• a Maison Forestière, or forest house, lost in nature
• This unique collection of properties fits beautifully into the natural surroundings, surrounded by a park.

How did you discover it? What attracted you to it?

In 1996, my passion for France and business connections with Alsace brought me here, as often as I could, to explore the region or enjoy the food and drink. I was particularly won over by Northern Alsace. It was off the tourist trail and the nature seemed to have retained a simple, rugged beauty. The people here are warm and friendly, and tradition is very important to them. They still readily speak the Alsatian dialect and their rich and delicious local cuisine has not yet been given the “tourist” touch.

One day, when exploring, I came across the Maison de la Turbine which was a complete ruin overrun by plants. I immediately knew it would become my home. I could see that the estate, with its lush vegetation and the Schwarzbach running through it, was a dream location for me, a place where I could give free rein to my imagination and create a “natural garden”.

Pierre Heschung et Michael Veith
Pierre Heschung et Michael Veith

Can you tell us about this house? How long have you been living here?

I settled into the Maison de la Turbine, part of De Dietrich plant which supplied electricity to the neighbouring factories and Jaegerthal hotel, castle and school from 1871 to 1960. The park still contains many vestiges of that era.

I began by with what I did best: maintaining the park and excavating the large pond, landscaping the area to suit my taste. First, I completely cleared and restructured the park. Then I replanted unique, individual, ancient tree species. Today, this is the calling card of my work and creativity. I travel the world, as far afield as Japan, to source trees from famous nurseries. I use these trees to design and create gardens for my clients but also for the Jaegerthal park.

The house was uninhabitable. All the windows were broken and there was no water, electricity, gas, plumbing or heating. First, I needed to install all of this. And then, the house was carefully restored over a five-year period to make it inhabitable whilst preserving its industrial charm.

Can you please share a bit of the history about the interior?

The house and bedrooms are open, modern, industrial and bathed in light. They have been furnished with great attention to detail but no frills. The Maison de la Turbine and art take pride of place. They are the true focus.

Where do you find your inspiration?

A combination of nature, culture, expertise and a large dose of intuition.

Where and how do you look for treasures?

I found many of them strolling round flea markets on my many travels through the East and West. I also design most of the furniture and objects myself, and then have them made to my recommendations by local artisans.

The guest rooms feature many beautiful things which have been in my family for several generations, works of art from my private collection; it’s a mix of old, modern and art.

What is your favourite place?

The lake terrace overlooking the garden, which is peaceful and always a source of inspiration. On cold or wet days, I like to sit beside the hot stove in the big kitchen in the Maison de la Turbine. In winter, I sometimes take up residence in one of the two guest houses, either the elegant and spacious Maison d´École or in the Maison Forestière, surrounded by nature. It always depends on my mood and the projects I’m working on. Each of these houses inspires me in its own way.

How would you describe your style?

Well-defined, confident, uncompromising and inspired by nature.

Cuisine - Domaine du Jaegerthal
Cuisine - Domaine du Jaegerthal

Your job is to create gardens. How did you approach, and how do you develop, the nature which frames them?

My aim is always to interpret the beauty of nature and not to embellish it or make it more exuberant than it is.

There is so much inspiration in nature that it is enough to observe it and understand how to transpose and interpret it accurately in each garden. My gardens are living works of art, in harmony with nature – “the culture of nature”.

Nature is everywhere in the house. Can you tell us about your floral compositions?

My houses and my everyday are infused with music and flowers. There are always fresh flowers in all my houses; like music and my dogs, they are part of my day-to-day life. I studied floral art and bonsai design during my stays in Japan.

How would you describe HESCHUNG?

Elegant, with a modern touch, and typically French. For me, the quality of its shoes has always been one of the most important things about Heschung. But today, my eyes are not just drawn to the classic models. I might also get excited about a pair of Heschung sneakers. I usually wear classic shoes, however, the new collection has won me over too.

What is your favourite pair of HESCHUNG shoes?

I like wearing the Crocus in autumn and winter. It’s a true classic for me. Of all the shoes I have worn in my life, including many English models, the Heschung Crocus has been the sturdiest and, most importantly, the most comfortable.