Awesome soles: Xavier de Royère, CEO of Corthay, focuses on quality, design and comfort
Q. Corthay is known for its refreshing use of colour, while maintaining an elegant, sophisticated look. What kind of consumer are you targeting with this signature look, and do you have plans to expand or change this consumer demographic?
A. [Our customers] share a love for a product that combines "traditional" attributes, such as comfort and durability, with the quest for shoes that are sharp in their design, sometimes a bit daring, but always wearable. Status tends not to be their main driving force [behind their purchases] - rather, they like the fact that Corthay is not ubiquitous, and they appreciate the straightforwardness of our approach to shoes.
Q. Corthay offers a bespoke service, a ready-to-wear collection, and something in between - the Atelier and Number 1 lines that allow consumers to customise existing RTW designs. What is the balance between these three services, and what is the ideal ratio you're aiming for?
A. Customers love the fact that they can enjoy a high level of personalisation - they can choose the colour of their sole, the inner lining, the piping, even the heel height - without going all the way to pure bespoke. The whole process of playing with the various possible combinations is really appealing, and the customer ends up with a shoe that is unique.
Bespoke is another world, where the quest for personalisation is pushed a few steps further. You interact directly with the actual shoemaker who will craft your shoes. There is a genuine exchange to determine what the end product will look like. Actually, we really cherish the fact that the same craftsman will measure your feet, take you through the trial fitting and deliver the finished pair. Three encounters with the customer over six months form the centre of the whole experience. This particular aspect of the bespoke service is really special - it is unique. There is a clear limit to the numbers we can produce, as we have a limited number of trained craftsmen.
Exceptional customers deserve exceptional shoes.
Q. What would you say was your most inspired decision or business strategy since you joined the company? How have you made sure Corthay is a cut above the rest in the men's shoe market?
A. Everything rests on being able to design and then craft a superior product. We recently made the decision to open a brand-new workshop and spent four months training the craftsmen - four months of pure training, not manufacturing - to make sure they learn the basics and gradually develop the unique skills to master the most complex shoemaking techniques. [This way, there was] no pressure regarding time, or productivity; [the idea was] to just practise and be comfortable crafting the finest shoes in the world.
Q. Today's luxury consumer can be quite particular - they value the exclusivity of in-person consultations and specialised customisations, while they are accustomed to the convenience of online shopping and having everything arranged at the click of a button. How do you balance their preference for bespoke, personal service with their need for convenience?
A. I feel customers want convenience for products that are relatively standard, but they understand the constraints of producing truly special products. They are prepared to wait - but only for something which stands out and is "true".
Q. For new and upcoming projects, what kinds of products will you be focusing on, and why?
A. Unique, different and creative products. There are so many products out there - so only speak if you have something truly special to say.
Q. When you first joined Corthay in 2010, what did you identify as the brand's key challenges, and how did you solve these problems?
A. The brand needed to be given the recognition it deserved - a proper stage on which to hold the show. This is a never-ending endeavour, and requires constant attention to ensure that as the business grows, the fundamental ingredients responsible for its success remain unchanged: exceptional quality, outstanding design and comfort, and passionate service.