Though his handbags have offered a direct line to casual Parisian élan since 2002, Jérôme Dreyfuss has shifted his gaze downward these days. Since launching footwear last season, the designer has reworked classic courts, pointy pumps and casual boots with signature ease. Meanwhile, the 39-year-old balances his evolving brand and a busy family life with wife Isabel Marant. “We’ve grown our businesses in a natural way, slowly but surely,” he said during Footwear News’ tour around town with the designer. “We are really happy to be successful, but we never set out to be a power couple.” Still, his approach to work is extremely strategic. Here, we observe a typical workday — and night.
The family awakens for a breakfast of hot chocolate and bread with butter before Jérôme drops off his son, Tal, 11, at school via motorbike. He then zips over to his headquarters in the Bastille. “I like to have one hour with nobody. I check my emails and organize my day.” Afterward, he and his business partner discuss potential new stores. “We want to open in London, hopefully next year.”
Jérôme uses the morning to focus on product development with the suppliers and take meetings with retailers. Today, he catches up with reps from Barneys New York in his showroom, as stateside growth is a priority. “It’s a market that loves French brands,” he says. “To expand in Europe, you need to build your brand in the American market.” In France, he is carried in more than 60 stores. “I’m never going to have more. As we live in a world where you are obliged to grow — otherwise you are dead — you are always searching for new markets.” Next, he meets with the team handling the business in Asia, where he has 10 shop-in-shops and plans for a standalone location in Seoul, South Korea.
We meet at Jérôme’s flagship nestled on Rue Jacob in the tony St.-Germain-des-Prés district. “My friend does the windows with these special sculpture pieces made to look like stone,” he says of the Southwest-inspired rock statues and cacti that adorn his shop. He does brisk business here and in the men’s shop across the road, staffed by a sleek quartet of Marant-clad associates. “They tell me people come back every two weeks and ask what’s new. Customers are demanding novelty right now and I constantly need to deliver,” Jérôme notes. “It’s weird for Isabel and me because we are totally against this kind of consuming, but at the same time, we are part of the machine that’s pushing people to want more.”
Returning to the showroom (carpeted in an exotic leaf-print rug, which changes seasonally), Jérôme chats with a new Russian client. “It’s the first time I met her. I’m curious about the way she was dressed, what she came to buy, where she heard of us.” Afterward, he cracks a Coca-Cola. “I don’t eat lunch,” he says nonchalantly, adding that he does allow for three to five smoke breaks a day. “It’s nothing. In France, even the doctor tells you it’s OK.” Other habits include playing squash once a week with a friend. “I really need it — to run and get all my energy out.”
With prototypes filling his curio-adorned office, Jérôme buckles down with his right hand, Stephanie, who handles production and acts as fit model. “I’m lucky because she has the right size foot and the right legs,” he says, pinning patches of leather on a spring ’15 boot sample as jazz plays on the radio. “It’s going to be a little Western in spirit.” After considerable back and forth, he zeroes in on comfort, adding hidden support and built-up arches. He says that heel height is still key. “Like all men, I prefer a higher heel. The longer the legs, the better. I love the way women stand in heels.”
His staff departs and Jérôme continues to tweak footwear designs. “I have 15 to do by the end of the week,” he says, adding that he also will make men’s sneakers. “I don’t need as much [time] for the bags because I know the suppliers well. For the shoes, it’s still brand new.” He powers through the remaining work and researches new designs until after dark. “Isabel and I alternate days of who gets to stay late at work. I get so much done.”
Jérôme leaves the office. This rigorous weekday schedule is countered with relaxing weekends at the family’s rustic retreat — with no running water or electricity — in Fountainbleu. “We ride horses in the forest. It’s wonderful to have this time with my wife and son,” he says. “We have a really simple life.”