Jean-Michel Cazabat Talks Personalized Shoes, Digital and Sophie Theallet

Fifteen years after founding his namesake line, Jean-Michel Cazabat is revamping to find fresh momentum. Here, the designer talks about brand image and a new digital strategy on deck.

1. What was your biggest business move in 2015?
“I shifted my production to a smaller factory in Italy. It gives you a lot of flexibility in the way you react to the market and your customers. It’s important for my business to provide personalized items. Consumers want a designer to listen to their needs.”

2. How will that affect the overall brand image?
“The label will always be feminine and sexy, for an active woman. I want her to be confident and feel comfortable in the product. Producing in such a small, artisan setting will allow me to make more special items. Maybe a woman has a desire for an exotic material or an item with feathers or a certain color. I would like to be able to target and seduce my regular consumer and hopefully attract new ones as well.”

Jean-Michel Cazabat Update
A fall ’16 sketch by Jean-Michel Cazabat.
CREDIT: Courtesy of designer.

3. You’ve also been pursuing a new digital strategy. Can you share any details?
“I’m working with a great French photographer and a video director for the website, which will re-launch in January. We have a vision of seeing women walking in New York City — on the subway, in Soho. I love rock music, so I want to spend time on image and sound. My background is in photography, so you’re going to see women with shoes on like you’ve never seen [from us] before.”

4. What is the biggest challenge you face at the moment?
“It’s a difficult industry today compared with when I started with Charles Jourdan [in the 1980s]. Now, there are so many brands and clothing designers who are creating shoes, too. There is so much competition that the customer looks for something personal. The challenge is to be different, which is why I like the idea of creating open communication with the consumer and trying to personalize her shoes.”

Jean-Michel Cazabat Update
A fall ’16 sketch by Jean-Michel Cazabat.
CREDIT: Courtesy of designer.

5. Your ongoing relationship with Sophie Theallet will continue for a fourth season at New York Fashion Week in February. Why are these projects important for the brand?
“Sophie and I always have the desire to collaborate, and our relationship with her is increasing. When I work with Sophie, it’s like I want to create a new baby with a different vision. You have to have that chemistry. We also did a nice collaboration with Zaid Affas in Canada for the charity event ‘George Invites Margaret to Dinner.’ We had a great mix of shoes that were auctioned off to benefit The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. Women loved it, and we got a very good, positive reaction. This also was part of a larger goal to [expand distribution in Canada].”

Jean-Michel Cazabat, Sophie Theallet
Jean-Michel Cazabat shoes for Sophie Theallet’s NYFW runway show in September.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.
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