Kevin Serpaggi and Camille Hourdeaux have struck that delicate balance between romance and work.
The Parisian couple launched men’s footwear label Pete Sorensen out of their shared apartment in 2011. The brand, named in ode to the simplicity of Scandinavian design, focuses on made-in-Italy modern classics, with many of them being updated each season and carrying over. One signature has become the Phantom Chelsea boot, with pop-color elastic. Retail prices range from 230 to 530 euros, or $310 to $712 at current exchange.
The label is now carried in the U.S. and Europe. In October 2013, the duo opened a showroom in London’s Notting Hill. This past June, they opened a retail location in Paris, on Rue de Charonne in the 11th arrondissement. The roughly 750-sq.-ft. space is designed to look like a New York loft.
“The shop is in a quiet and peaceful courtyard, breaking with the very rough atmosphere of the street,” Hourdeaux said. “We also have our design office and a large stockroom in the basement. All the styles of the brand are exposed.”
Starting this fall, the line will be available at Luisa Via Roma in Italy and on Yoox’s directional site, Thecorner.com.
“It’s very important to us to build the same story with each of our distributors and their customers,” Serpaggi said.
Here, the twosome sounds off on planned growth, becoming retailers and how they stand out from the competition.
1. How has the brand grown since its launch?
KS: We started small, and we can say today, almost three years after the launch of the brand, Pete Sorensen is a success. Initially, we thought [we would] offer a capsule collection with no more than 10 permanent styles. We wanted these models to become iconic styles for the brand that customers could return to every year. We produced small serials in our handcraft Italian workshop, and the shoes were made to order. But very quickly, we found that demand was too strong. Our collections had great success; we had a list of bookings growing. So we had to produce more to meet the increasing demand of the customers. We created seasonal patterns and styles, expanded the permanent collection and took more risks in terms of design. Now we order more volume. Customers have to wait no longer. From our side, we are very proud to produce the same product quality as the beginnings of the brand, even if the production volumes are much higher. Since the launch of the brand, our goal has not changed: making quality shoes.
2. What prompted you to open a store?
CH: We started selling our shoes in the apartment where Kevin and I lived, so our apartment was used as a showroom. We received our [retail] customers by appointment at home. They were happy to see and try the collections but also, I think, to meet us. But very quickly, stocks and shoeboxes invaded our small showroom, there was no more space; we had to do [something else]. We decided to open a shop. So now customers can come freely but also by appointment, as they prefer. It is important to be flexible!
3. What are your plans for the U.S.?
KS: For now, we’re only distributed in a very trendy marketplace named Thecools.com. We would love to develop our brand in physical shops, too, but shipping costs are heavy. We would love to be present in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, for example, and will have shortly the chance to discuss it with local stockists.
4. Any other stores/growth planned?
KS: We very recently opened our Parisian showroom and are very happy to create the shoe atmosphere we always wanted to focus on. We would love to increase our German, Scandinavian and U.K. distribution. We would simply love being present in Berlin, for example. We might have some news very soon, but a little too early [to discuss] at the moment.
5. How have you differentiated Pete Sorensen from other men’s product on the market?
KS: With Pete Sorensen, we wanted to create small shoe collections designed with passion and love. We designed each model focusing on its own identity and its own charm. We really consider shoes as objects, and we truly hope that this is visible in our work and collections. We design each shoe with a specific material and color to make it obvious and ready to wear. We do our best to make each day you wear them a pleasure in terms of style, comfort and emotion.