My first surprise was they’re really daring with the color. The [global] men’s market moved within the last 10 years, of course—everybody noted this. Men are a bit more fashionable—little by little—but in China, the movement is very, very fast. In my collection, I’m very focused on the color and the detail of the piping. They really understand very quickly, and really they dare, which is not so obvious in France or other markets like the United States.
You also have two stores in Hong Kong. Have you noticed any differences in taste between the mainland and Hong Kong customers?
Hong Kong is a bit different. It’s much more cosmopolitan than Beijing. In Hong Kong, you have some mainlanders who come, but you have all the nationalities.
Here, it’s really like a new market. The people are very open-minded, in fact. You feel that they are more open-minded than the others. It’s a funny thing but I think it’s really true.
How important is personalized service in the China market compared to other markets?
The same as everywhere. We make bespoke here, which is full bespoke—starting from scratch—and we have ready-to-wear, but in ready-to-wear, you have the possibility to make a very special thing called an “MTO” or “made-to-order”: you can change the color, you can change the finishing, the piping, the lining, the sole. Half of our business is done with the MTO in ready-to-wear, which is huge.
What kind of demand have you seen for bespoke products in general in China?
In China’s market, I think the bespoke is a statement.
The first time I came to China seven years ago, I visited the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, and I realized the level of the craft they had for a very long time. Of course, they had a very big period—the Cultural Revolution, which was terrible for their culture and for a lot of people, but they have this [craftsmanship] in their DNA. They know the quality; they know the nice craft. It’s a very sophisticated culture. They understand the difference, and they really enjoy it.
You just introduced some soft shoes to the China market. Can you talk about how these compare to the other models?
For 25 years I’ve made a kind of formal shoe—leather sole, good construction, classical but with a twist. But in a certain way, it’s not very open. I decided six months ago, especially for the China market (but not only the China market—Dubai and also the Hong Kong market—countries where it’s hot or wet) we definitely need this product—something easier to wear, softer—they can wear it barefoot. Just to open the field a little bit more for the customer. It’s a first step because we’re probably going to move next for fall/winter to the sneaker, and then next spring/summer we’re probably going to make another loafer like this one but lighter and softer. Shoes that you’d like to wear on the beach in St. Tropez or on your yacht…” Read full interview here