On the French footwear market, several historic heritage brands are making a comeback, from Clergerie to Freelance. Now 101 years old, Charles Jourdan, owned by the Royer Group, resurfaces for fall 22 under the direction of a new artistic director, designer of ready-to-wear Christine Kocher.
The artistic director of the ready-to-wear brand Koché and the feather-maker and florist Lemarié, owned by Chanel, said she was ready to take on a new challenge in footwear. “Shoes aren’t just accessories in my mind, they’re a core element that defines every look,” she said.
The Royer Group, which bought Charles Jourdan in 2009, has tried several times to relaunch it, the most recent in 2017 with the opening of a store on Place de la Madeleine in Paris. But Jourdan has been dormant for two years, absent from the US market for much longer. (In the US, Titan Industries and BBC International teamed up to acquire North American licensing rights and relaunch the brand in 2009, but that never materialized.)
For Charles Jourdan’s latest iteration, Kocher – who has worked with brands from Converse to Pucci – dug deep into the archives, reviving a graphic logo from the 1970s, which appears on the architectural heels, buckles and totes. Material stories include orange bouclé wool and lilac satin embossed to look like ostrich leather. Metallic pumps inspired by minimalist artist Donald Judd and architect Eileen Gray.
“It was a real technical feat to make all these heels. They are like small sculptures. I wanted them to be beautiful on the foot, but also to be beautiful as objects,” she explained.
The collection is made in Italy, a break from the shoe brand‘s French roots. (Its original factory in Romans, France, is now closed.)
Here, Kocher, who was on FN’s 2017 Emerging Talent List, talks about bringing a fresh perspective to the brand, the joys of browsing the archives, and what it takes to modernize a heritage brand.
What three words would you use to describe Charles Jourdan?
“Avant-garde, sexy, daring.
As a ready-to-wear designer, what do you bring to a classic shoe brand?
“I guess that’s why Charles Jourdan chose me for this relaunch – to create something with a fresh eye. Shoes can totally transform a silhouette, so I pay the same attention to clothes and shoes when creating a look for my shows, for example.The footwear sector is of course different, but, in the end… it has to show the vision you have for women.
You can say that you have really studied the archives. How was the process?
“I dove into the archives. I’m kind of a fashion history geek, so having access to all of this incredible heritage is priceless. I was like a kid in a candy store. In particular, I was fascinated by old catalogs and advertising, of course Guy Bourdin, but not only. It was so modern and beautiful. It was truly a moment of joy for me.
What do you think is the key to bringing back a heritage brand?
“Heritage is so precious these days. It revives a part of the history of fashion that makes us understand the evolution of our time. But you can’t rely on that alone, otherwise your brand will become a museum. So the key element is modernity – what bridge can we build between the past and the future? It has always been part of my creative process from Koché to Pucci, Converse, Maison Lemarié and now Charles Jourdan.
— With contributions from Joëlle Diderich