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10 Questions for Pierre Corthay

French designer talks about balancing bespoke and ready-to-wear.

Pierre Corthay

Pierre Corthay

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Men’s shoemaker Pierre Corthay is the master.

So says the French government, which gave Corthay the lifetime title of maître d’art, or master of art, at the end of 2008. Each year, the award is given to honor native artisans for their expertise and talent in their fields. “The government pays attention to the craftsmen, people who have special know-how. I was very proud,” said Corthay.

The designer started almost 30 years ago at the age of 16 through a program in France where students spend six years traveling and learning their trade. From there, he worked for John Lobb and Berluti, before starting his own men’s bespoke label in 1990. In 2003, Corthay set up his own workshop near Paris to create a ready-to-wear line of men’s shoes. “The philosophy was to introduce part of our handcrafted spirit into the manufacturing,” Corthay said. “Every detail is made as it is in the bespoke.”

These days, Corthay sells about 2,500 ready-to-wear pairs each year and 130 bespoke pairs. Ready-to-wear is priced between 850 euros and 1,000 euros, or $1,155 to $1,360, while bespoke shoes cost 3,000 euros to 6,000 euros, or $4,080 to $8,165. The wait time for bespoke is about three months, compared with four weeks for ready-to-wear.

The line is carried in three exclusive Pierre Corthay shops in Japan, as well as in boutiques throughout Europe. Footwear News recently caught up with Corthay at his only U.S. retailer, Leffot, in New York.

1. Are men embracing bold statements right now?

PC: When I started my company roughly 20 years ago, we only made [shoes in] black, light-brown, dark-brown and suede. Men were still very conventional. Perhaps six or seven years ago, it began to [change]. The fashion of men is more feminine now. They can wear colors more easily than before.

2. What is your philosophy when it comes to color in men’s shoes?

PC: Color is not just a nice red or a nice blue. It’s important to find the right combination because a color only exists with another one. It can be more interesting if you put another color beside it. This is one of the most interesting parts of my job — to find proportion and the nice combination.

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