PARIS — Historic French shoemaker Charles Jourdan is making a comeback, tapping fashion designer Christelle Kocher as artistic director in a bid to appeal to a new generation of Millennial and Gen Z consumers.
Licensed footwear specialist Groupe Royer, which bought the brand in 2009, has made several attempts to relaunch it, most recently in 2017 with the opening of a store on Place de la Madeleine in Paris.
But Jourdan has been dormant for the last two years, giving Kocher a blank slate to introduce her colorful, architectural styles in unusual materials. The designer, who is creative director of the Koché ready-to-wear label and of the Chanel-owned feather and flower-maker Lemarié, said she could not resist the opportunity to revive the 101-year-old house.
“It’s wonderful to wake up a sleeping beauty with an incredible history, heritage and legitimacy, and to bring it back in a modern, contemporary and creative way,” Kocher told WWD in an exclusive interview. “For someone like me who loves fashion and the history of fashion, it was obviously an incredible opportunity.”
To mark her new gig, she has designed a separate capsule collection to be unveiled during Koché’s runway show on March 1 as part of Paris Fashion Week.
Known for its Louis XV heel and its historic collaboration with Christian Dior, Jourdan enjoyed its heyday in the ‘70s and ’80s, immortalized by colorful advertising campaigns by French photographer Guy Bourdin. That period coincided with the launch of its accessories business, which remains popular on the vintage market.
In the 2000s, the brand tapped Patrick Cox and later Josephus Thimister as creative directors.
Kocher has revived a graphic logo from the ‘70s, which appears on everything from heels to buckles, as well as the packaging of the shoes. She paired materials like orange bouclé wool, a painterly multicolored jacquard, and lilac satin embossed to look like ostrich leather, with metallic heels inspired by the likes of minimalist artist Donald Judd and architect Eileen Gray.
“It was a real technical feat making all these heels. They’re like little sculptures. I wanted them to look good on the foot, but also to be beautiful as objects,” she explained, adding that most of the heels hover around a wearable 1.5 inches.
Though Jourdan’s historic factory in the former shoemaking hub of Romans-sur-Isère has been shuttered, Kocher drew on the brand’s rich archives, including a curved mid-heel named Christelle which she used on a sock bootie. The shoes were manufactured in Italy.
Having closed its existing store last year, Jourdan plans to open a more suitable location in Paris within the next few months. Kocher’s debut fall collection is due to land in stores in June, backed by a campaign shot by Camille Vivier, and the brand is hosting buying appointments during Paris Fashion Week.
Retail prices range from 470 euros for a pair of Guy Guy flat slippers with a silver logo buckle, named after Bourdin, to 750 euros for the Filicudi multistrap heeled sandals. A leather goods line is also in the works.
“For people who work in the sector, Charles Jourdan is a major reference,” Kocher said.
“There’s a history and a real legitimacy, but I didn’t want to focus on the past, but rather to project it into the future. There’s a certain classicism and timelessness in the lines, but at the same time, a boldness and impertinence in the choice of materials and colors. I wanted the brand to be bright, optimistic and geared toward new customers,” she added.