NEW YORK — With his footwear business on the rise in the U.S., Joie CEO and creative director Serge Azria is setting his sights on Europe.
Azria, who founded BCBG footwear with brother Max, became sole proprietor of Los Angeles-based Joie in 2007, and soon after introduced shoes to the brand. Since then, he has worked to streamline distribution and tap global markets. Azria also recently announced plans to open a high-profile flagship store in Paris.
While shoes have become a major category for the brand, Azria denies that he has made a huge “push” into footwear.
“I don’t want [Joie] to be very big, but I want it to be very strong,” he said. “I make sure the shoes are in select, high-end stores, and we don’t do too much production or exhibition — that’s not the goal of the brand.”
Part of his strategy has been to position the contemporary shoes as opening-price-point product in top-tier retailers. Luxury department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman carry a selection of the brand’s earthy, distressed-leather boots, shoes and sandals. “We give good value to it,” Azria said of the shoes, priced from $295 to $395, and boots, retailing from $350 to $575.
And Azria’s design strategy is as focused as it is cost-effective.
“Rather than simply design more styles, we’re homing in on what has worked in the past, exploring what the customer will look for in the future and taking a position on several key styles,” he said. “The more we know our customers based on their orders, the fewer shoes we need to produce.”
This summer, Joie will bow its flagship store in Azria’s hometown of Paris in the Palais Royal shopping district. The executive sees the boutique as a way to introduce the brand to a new, wider market.
“It will be a window to Europe, a real showcase for Joie,” Azria said of the space at 27 Rue de Valois, nestled among luxury neighbors such as Rick Owens and Stella McCartney.
The concept for the two-story boutique is a “Parisian apartment on a Sunday morning,” according to Azria, and will offer a large assortment of vintage wares in addition to Joie merchandise.
Going forward, the CEO said he has no plans to open additional stores, but would consider a Joie outpost in Los Angeles. “But only if I find the right location at the right price,” he said. “What I really like is to work with our [retail] customers. … I am not a retailer.”
Azria also said he would consider expanding into men’s offerings. “We will develop the brand Joie in different ways, but always in a small market,” he said.