10 Questions for Pierre Corthay

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

3. Why was it important for you to make ready-to-wear on your own?

PC: It’s very difficult to control where your product goes and how it is done. And I am a bit psychotic about the quality and the detail. We tried a few partnerships that didn’t work, and finally, we made about 60 pairs of bespoke golf shoes for an American man who was starting a golf club. He gave me a wire transfer of around 150,000 euros. We invested all the money in [starting our own factory]. It’s like a fairy tale.

4. Did you hope to reach different customers with the ready-to-wear?

PC: That was the idea from the beginning: to open the brand to the world. Now, we have about 25 sales points in the world. It’s small, but little by little, [we are growing]. And we don’t have any group behind us. It’s a very exciting story, in fact, because I work with my brother who is now in charge of bespoke. Because Christopher is with me, we can do this.

5. Did you plan to grow slowly?

PC: Yes, we don’t want to anticipate too much on the commercial side. So of course, it’s slower, but it’s much more secure. Tomorrow, if we have an order of 500 pairs, I don’t know how we could do it. I’m very conscious about this. It’s possible to maintain the quality, but you can’t do it tomorrow. You have to hire good people, to form them. It takes time.

6. What is the biggest challenge for you right now?

PC: In our business, it’s growing and maintaining the quality. [Finding skilled workers] is a very difficult thing. Also, we have a small manufacturing space — 5,400 square feet and 10 people. We could hire 20 more people if we wanted to, but then you begin to have more problems.

7. Why did Bergdorf Goodman recently stop carrying your brand?

PC: The problem was that the currency between the euro and the U.S. dollar was so hard during the last six months that we could not afford to deliver shoes at the same dollar price. So we increased the price, and they accepted it the first time, but the second time they stopped. ... The product works very well there, so I hope to [work something out].

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