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Clergerie CEO Perry Oosting on brand direction, femininity and shopping through Instagram.

Clergerie’s recent appointment of Perry Oosting as CEO signals a shakeup for the brand, with Oosting bringing in an entire new team, including a new creative director.

From investing in digital to new, key store locations, Clergerie is undergoing a rebrand. Last week in London, WGSN’s Senior Footwear & Accessories Editor Ella Hudson caught up with Oosting to hear more on the future of the footwear brand.

 

I understand that there’s been a lot of change at Clergerie. What’s new and what’s there to look forward to? 

 

Personally, I joined on the 1st April last year, and then we’ve appointed David Tourniaire-Beauciel as our new creative director. David ticked all the boxes for us, possessing a proven track record in business growth. He also had the fashion know-how, and had worked with Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, Phoebe Philo at Chloe and spent time at Balenciaga, too. Also important to us, given our own production site in Romans-sur-Isère, France, is that David is, first and foremost, a shoe designer. Designing ready-to-wear, you drape, whereas if you’re designing shoes, it has to fit – it’s a very technical category.

David was actually born and raised in Romans-sur-Isère, too! He played as a child with Mr. Clergerie’s son and his mother still lives in the town. So, for David, there is an emotional connection to the brand, and passion behind it that goes beyond the job itself.

Additionally, we opened two new stores in key locations. The first on Rue Saint Honoré and the second on Madison Avenue, with a completely new concept. We worked with Milan-based architects Vudafieri Saverino Partners to design a store that reflects the ethos of Clergerie, the masculine femininity and the juxtaposition that comes with that. So, we have marble on one side of the store, velvet on the other. The black and white colour scheme reflects one of Robert Clergerie’s defining creations; the black and white ‘male’ brogue for women.

Lastly, we’ve redone the logo. We had a very cursive, written ‘Robert Clergerie’ and now we’ve gone for a bold, simple ‘Clergerie.’ Everybody knows the brand as simply Clergerie anyway but it’s also a matter of simplicity and ease, particularly for consumers in the East.

We now have someone responsible for digital strategy, we have a new website and we’ve launched our e-commerce site. There’s been lots of change, these are really just some examples.

 

What interests me there is making Clergerie more pronounceable for the East… 

 

Yes, and making it more visible and easily identifiable, too. Sometimes, people say “tell me what Clergerie is in one line,” and it’s pretty difficult to do. Now, we define it as a ‘daring, unconventional, pure aesthetic with a touch of femininity’. If you say those words, I think they are truly associated with Clergerie. So, besides pronunciation, it’s also about what’s right for the brand.

 

In terms of your presence in the East, is that something you’re looking to grow? 

 

The core markets for Clergerie are Europe (key countries include UK, France, Spain and Italy) and the US. The Middle East is also a key region.

We are in China with key partners (Lane Crawford are stockists), but we don’t want to grow distribution that much, for now. We’re with the right partners and we’re certainly happy to be there. For us, however, focus doesn’t lie in the Chinese consumer at this moment. We’re placing more emphasis on core markets and digital presence – expanding distribution further can come later.

 

 

Earlier, you mentioned e-commerce. How new is that for Clergerie? 

 

We were probably the only company left who didn’t have their own e-commerce site! We launched back in March and was built on Shopify, a new platform that makes it easier for smaller companies like ourselves, particularly due to the integration of Instagram.

The launch has been successful and hasn’t been achieved through any digital advertising, purchases have flowed through our natural traffic and organic social media presence.

I think that shopping through Instagram is set to be particularly successful as a platform for us. There’s a clear user path and it helps to tie in our new branding and the marketing of that with direct sales.

 

 

And now Clergerie are moving into menswear, too? 

 

Yes! If there’s one brand that should do men and womenswear, it should be Clergerie. As I mentioned, we began with Mr. Clergerie creating those masculine shoes for women – we’re not, and never have been, a stiletto brand.

The idea is that what you see on offer for women is now available for men, just in a smaller collection.  We’ve only started with a few selected partners, because we want it to feel like a slow, natural progression.

There’s no diversification strategy, no desire to start making handbags. Shoes have always been our core offer and will continue to do so. In fact, the factory we still manufacture in was a men’s shoe factory when Mr. Clergerie first purchased it back in the 1890s. Our DNA goes back to mens footwear!

Considering all of that, we should be offering menswear.

 

There’s a lot of excitement around menswear at the moment – it’s projected to have much more growth than women’s footwear and accessories. Nordstrom just opened it’s first solely menswear store in New York – has this played a part in Clergerie’s move into menswear? 

 

Of course! We’re seeing it grow, too. We’re also seeing how the market is much more crowded now, ready-to-wear brands are making men’s footwear a key part of their offering. As a footwear brand, we need to be doing the same.

Sneakers is also another phenomenon within the industry, particularly within the menswear market and that’s certainly a point of development for Clergerie.

 

I was interested in bringing up sneakers with you. It’s been a huge shift in the market for the last few seasons. At WGSN, however, we’re starting to see a shift to smarter footwear – but comfort is now expected, so it’ll be hard to leave sneakers behind. How can Clergerie navigate the need for more formal footwear with comfort? 

 

Smarter comfort is part of Clergerie’s DNA. Mr. Clergerie himself always said that ‘a woman defines her own elegance’, and comfort must always be a key component. We want to be true to the woman who doesn’t think in ‘morning, afternoon, evening’ and create shoes that take her through the whole day and into the night.

Femininity is defined by shape, form and look – it doesn’t have to be stilettos! Our memory sole is used in this most recent collection, moulding to the wearers foot, and that’s all part of this hidden comfort.

 

 

You’ve spoken of your factory in Romans. It’s pretty rare to have that manufacturing capability. We’re seeing consumers becoming increasingly interested in the story of products and also keen to know where their apparel and footwear is coming from. Is transparency and Clergerie’s heritage something you’re keen to communicate? 

 

Absolutely. If you look at our new website, we have a little video about our story, our people. We wanted to profile the factory workers that have been with us for thirty, forty years. We’re proud of the expertise, quality and craftsmanship that we have in house – but it’s more personal than that.

We had a Christmas party last year with the factory and office workers in Romans, and the stories and the passion towards Clergerie was just unbelievable! I want to start communicating that with our consumer.

 

 

 

Enjoyed this? Read our Must-Haves A/W 18/19: Footwear report over on WGSN. Or head over to WGSN’s footwear section for key trends, category updates and all the latest footwear news.

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