Entrepreneurial success in luxury – an exclusive interview with CEO of Maison Corthay

As part of the series on entrepreneurial success in luxury, with exclusive insights into how to build a successful luxury brand, CPP-LUXURY.COM has interviewed exclusively Mr Xavier de Royere, CEO Maison Corthay, French luxury shoemaker.

Maison Corthay is a young luxury brand. What were the key elements which have contributed to the  success of your company? How important is private ownership for a company such as Corthay?

Maison Corthay is indeed a – relatively – young company, as it enters its 23rd year ! The company’s success, since the beginning, is due to the quality of its products, the appeal of its design, the personality, vision and ambition of its founder. This all contributes to the uniqueness of Maison Corthay and its appeal to connoisseurs.

Your company’s production is based in France. How different is shoemaking in France versus Italy?

There are fine artisans in both countries ! The main point of difference would probably be around the ‚technology’ used to manufacture the shoes. Most Italian manufacturers craft their shoes with the Blake construction technology. All Maison Corthay shoes are Goodyear welted shoes. These are a very high quality, durable and comfortable shoes.

Besides manufacturing, how  important is design and innovation for your company? Tell us more about  the unique features of your products.

Design and innovation are absolutely key elements – they enable differentiation, and they create desirability. Everyone wants to have a high quality shoe – but customers are keen on having a shoe that looks the part and defines their style. The shoe is a key to the look of the customer. Colour, different types of skins and patina are very important elements of our products.

What is your current ratio in your company’s turnover of pret-a-porter shoes versus bespoke shoes? What is your company’s production capacity?

Ready-to-wear shoes represent the majority of shoes that we produce.

How important is for your company to maintain a limited production?

Limited production comes from the fact that it is very difficult to produce large quantities of shoes with consistent quality. So, whilst we are steadily increasing our production to serve our customers, we are constrained by the number of craftsmen we can employ and the number of shoes they can produce. Also, we do not wish to be manufacturing a huge number of shoes, as we wish to maintain our cachet and exclusivity

How important  is customer service in your business? Has the internet and technology been helping you in providing better and more efficient customer service?

Customer service is of the utmost importance. Maison Corthay started as a purely bespoke business – probably the utmost in terms of service, given the nature of the one-on-one encounter with the customer. This is part of our DNA. The internet helps us communicate what we do with quite a large variety of people – worldwide – relatively cheaply. Technology is very helpful in enabling us to keep close contact with our customers and let them know what is going on in the company !

What is the ultimate service level you provide for your top clients?

We travel round the world for them. We will go and meet them with a craftsman – pretty much wherever they are ! Again, this is personalisation and service at its best – we come to you !

Which is your  most successful market in terms of sales? Which are your top priority  countries in terms of expansion?

Three markets would be on the podium – France, Hong Kong and Japan. The United Kingdom and the US would follow close behind.

What is your company’s approach to education and awareness in emerging markets? Which are the challenges you have been facing in emerging markets?

The level of awareness regarding high quality products is quite staggering. Customers are quite able to perceive the quality of products and appreciate unique items when they are presented to them in the right way and environment.

What is your expansion model for mono-brand stores? Please give us your opinion of  franchising versus directly operated stores.

We now have our own Maisons in Paris, Tokyo, London, Hong Kong and Dubai – 5 key cities as far as luxury, style and fashion are concerned. All of these stores are owned and operated by us. They are the first ones and we feel it is important that we are able to develop the brand whilst keeping very tight control on the branding and personality elements of the company. And interact with customers. We are not opposed to the franchise model, and will certainly consider it when the time, the partners and the locations are right.

An increasing  number of luxury brands have been embracing digital platforms as a means  of communications. What is your approach in this respect?

We are very active on Facebook and are just about to launch a new version of our website (mid November) – watch this space !

Do you  consider launching your own e-commerce? What is your view?

E-commerce is not one of our priorities at this point.

Do you   envisage your company’s future development and expansion as being part of  a luxury group or attract investment from an equity fund?

We are lucky to be able to grow whilst maintaining our independence. Being part of a larger Group is not something we are currently considering.

Has your  company’s financial performance been affected, if in any way, by the on-going European debt crisis? What is your view on the French Government’s plans to increase taxes

The environment is relatively unstable at the moment. It has not affected our sales, but the upheaval due to the crisis and increasing tax situation are quite worrying. Another reason to take one step at the time ….

Maison Corthay, Bespoke models Sergio, Belphegor, Django and Daliet