Carel — the legacy French footwear brand experiencing a revival — has unexpectedly teamed with a fashion double-C, but not the one you may think.
Clara Cornet, an insider who splits time between New York and Paris, has joined forces with the brand for a poppy, limited-edition runs of Carel’s “Kina” mary jane shoes.
In 2015, while employed as Opening Ceremony’s women’s buyer, Cornet gave Carel its first U.S. retailing partner. Upon making landfall at OC’s New York and Los Angeles shops, the Kina shoe quickly became a success for its manageable heel height, quality, design acumen and price point (typically less than $400).
Cornet, who grew up in Paris’ Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood where Carel has long had a store on the Rue du Four, says she “would pass by the shop all the time. I even wore it as a child — it’s very Left Bank. It’s not about fashion, it’s about timelessness.”
Later as an adult, Cornet “had a change of perspective when the mary jane style became so on-trend. I thought to myself, ‘There is one brand that has done it since Day One, they are known for it.’ It made me want to bring the brand to the U.S. so people could buy it from the source.”
Once on the shelf, the shoes “did better than expected and we had to reorder into it,” Cornet explained. While in France, Carel has a preconceived notion as an old-school brand, it was a new name for many American, fashion-conscious shoppers.
In creatively partnering with Carel, Cornet has given the Kina an optimistic redress — affixing girlish iconography (celestial moons, heart shapes, cherries and lipstick kisses) to the Kina’s rounded toes. The styles are to be priced at $430, and will be exclusively sold through Carel’s e-commerce site, beginning Oct. 23.
To mark their release, Cornet has enlisted friends including Richie Shazam and Brie Welch for a digital campaign. They join Cornet as well as Parisian photographer Adeline Mai in promotional imagery.
“I asked my friend, the French photographer Adeline Mai, to shoot New York girls that I feel embody the spirit of Carel — strong and independent. Their block heel is made for walking around all day. I think there is something to be said about the block heel and women — it was a true innovation in the Fifties. Today it remains the most practical yet elegant heel for everyday, for women who have places to go,” Cornet said.
The style professional added that she rarely wears heels, yet makes exceptions for Carel. “They are the highest I can go,” she said.
“I want to help reactivate the style among friends in a newer way to create community and excitement. That is as important for me as the design itself — to get a new generation of girl excited about the shoe.”