LONDON — French footwear label Clergerie is marking a new chapter in its 37-year history, with a return to the brand’s core values.
Leading the brand in this new phase is chief executive officer Perry Oosting, who joined the company last April and developed a strategy for what the label should stand for.
“The first thing we did was try to gain clarity of who we are, so we set out to define the brand and value proposition,” said Oosting, who looked back at some of the key brand values established by Robert Clergerie to map out a vision for the future. “It’s a daring and unconventional, pure aesthetic and it was born out of the idea of masculine femininity. Mr. Clergerie was daring and unconventional in the sense that he made men’s shoes for women. He didn’t see women as trophy wives, but as independent and able to define her own elegance.”
To translate this vision into product, Oosting tapped footwear designer David Tourniaire-Beauciel, who also works alongside Demna Gvasalia on Balenciaga’s footwear collections, to succeed former creative director Roland Mouret.
Tourniaire-Beauciel’s technical knowledge of shoemaking, alongside his high fashion credentials, ticked all of Oosting’s boxes. “He had a proven track record. When he was a designer at major brands, he more than doubled their business in Europe. He worked at Givenchy with [Riccardo] Tisci, he worked with Phoebe Philo at Chloé and he still designs for Balenciaga, so his fashionability was an important element.”
Tourniaire-Beauciel’s first collection for the footwear label introduces sneakers into the mix, done in Clergerie signature woven raffia and a thick sporty white sole.
“Sneakers are in everybody’s wardrobe. Women are no longer just looking for a cocktail shoe, but for day-to-evening options, because now the whole day is an occasion,” said Oosting to highlight the importance of the brand offering its own take on the sneaker.
Elsewhere, Tourniaire-Beauciel brought in sculptural heels to update the brand’s signature platform pumps; juxtaposed masculine silhouettes such as the loafer with soft, clean lines, and introduced new materials such as vinyl and croc-effect leather. A small men’s edit sits next to the women’s collection and features many crossover styles, including lace-up boots, brogues and the new raffia high-top sneaker.
No styles were carried over from past collections in order to give Tourniaire-Beauciel a platform to establish his own codes for the house. Following the launch of his debut fall collection, the company will work toward establishing a new range of classics.
“Now we have the response of the market, so it’s all about creating a sense of continuity, and defining the core,” said Oosting. “Recurring products become the expression of your brand, especially when it comes to footwear, where brands tend to be recognized by one or two styles, no more. If you look at the size of the business of some of our competitors, they only have one or two core styles. Call it dependency, but it’s also clarity.”
The company, part of Jean-Marc Loubier’s First Heritage Brands, also made significant investment in Tourniaire-Beauciel’s debut collection in order to increase the “value perception” of the product.
“A lot of designer brands have entry-level segments but you might only be able to get a non-leather sandal at that price point. Our prices for boots are really attractive because they remain around 495 to 695 pounds. That’s a huge opportunity commercially, to speak to a much more discerning customer,” added Oosting, pointing to the company’s commitment to transparency in terms of both its pricing and production, as one of its main appeals.
The brand is communicating its refreshed image through a new retail concept created alongside Milanese architect Tiziano Vudafieri. The new concept focuses on translating the masculine-feminine aesthetic at the core of the label, through contrasting materials and colors. It was first introduced at the brand’s new locations on Paris’ Rue St. Honoré and New York’s Madison Avenue. The brand’s Cannes flagship was renovated in time for the film festival and the goal is for all its global locations to be renovated by 2019.
“It was about expressing the brand through new colors, materials, architectural shapes and forms. Robert Clergerie was always about contrast, so the floor is a black-and-white marble and we have steel and glass mixed in with velvet walls, so there is a juxtaposition between soft and hard,” added Oosting.
When it comes to expansion, Oosting remains cautious. The focus of his strategy is to distill a clear brand image and optimize the company’s existing retail network, which consists of 250 wholesale accounts and 15 stand-alone stores.
He sees an opportunity to steadily grow the brand’s newly launched e-commerce site, as well as its retail footprint in China, where it remains small. “We need to build more brand awareness through social media, followed by product availability in the region. It’s not like we’re going to quickly expand in the whole region.”
Similarly, Oosting is not planning to jump on any opportunity to expand the brand’s offer outside footwear. “We have a very simplified strategy to focus on men’s and women’s shoes, that’s where we come from,” he said.