Shoe designer Jean-Michel Cazabat may have been born in the South of France, but he chose to make New York City home base for his eponymous shoe brand over a decade ago. Cementing his ties to the city, the designer also just opened up his first freestanding store on Bleecker Street in the West Village.
“Since my first time coming to visit New York in mid eighties, I fell in love with the energy and kindness of the people in the city," says Cazabat. " I felt at home right away -- especially downtown. I came for a week and stayed a month!”
Cazabat got his start in the shoe business working for Charles Jourdan as a buyer before becoming president of Stephane Kélian. In 1999, he struck out on his own, launching women’s shoes, and in 2003 he expanded into mens. In a sea of $800 shoes, Cazabat has grown his brand with more affordable offerings (most pieces in the collection are in the $300 range) that come with luxury touches like Napolean blue and red shoe boxes. “I think people really like the creativity of my brand. Every shoe tells a story,” he says.
“Building a collection is like giving birth to a baby. It needs a lot of love and care,” says Cazabat. The Spring 2012 collection “is very exotic-oriented with a lot of snakeskin, metallics and acid patent leather colors,” says Cazabat. “Deliveries will begin in December, and will make you crave warm weather again.”
The designer is clearly in expansion mode. He opened a shop in shop in China’s Hangzhou Tower Shopping City this past August, and the New York store is another milestone. “After 11 years of working on my own line to finally manage to open my personal boutique means a lot to me. It is a big accomplishment. I was close to signing the lease a few other times at other locations, but it happened here for a reason, I believe. This location is so much more beautiful than the others," according to the designer. Cazabat says the store will “have customers feel like they are coming in to my home. The color of the sofa, the shelving covered with gold leaves, the entrance wall on the side in Napoleon blue are all design elements you would find at my home in Soho.”
As for what Cazabat thinks about the extreme high heel shoe trend he says, “Today women need all sorts of heels in their wardrobe from stilettos to big platforms, from wedges to flats and also comfortable shearling boots for winter. The key is well-balanced proportions.”