Jean-Michel Cazabat has been in the business for decades. Growing up in France during the 70s afforded him inspirations for a lifetime and to this day, the trends from this decade can be found in his shoes. He was fortunate enough to work with two of the finest footwear designers in history: Charles Jourdan and Stephane Kelian. His career longevity can be attributed to devoted clients and the willingness to adapt to evolving retail trends. And, this should go without saying, his talent that allows him to produce beautiful collection after collection.
We have fantasies about France in the 60s! Please tell us everything about growing up during this time in the village of Gascony!
I was still a child in the 60s, but my memories of growing up in France really start in beginning of the 70s especially when it comes to fashion. I remember seeing women wearing cork wedges with denim skirts and hot pants. Without a doubt this is where my passion for shoes started and women. I still have an affinity for the 70s and it’s a heavy influence you can still see in my collection today especially with a new capsule collection I am launching inspired by Studio 54.
In your mind, what styles defined this era?
Platforms, wedges, thick heels, and glitter.
Do you remember your first trip to Paris? What was it like?
I grew up watching movies with Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo that were filmed in Paris so when I finally took my first trip to Paris I felt like I was in movie, it was surreal and exciting.
Before launching your own brand in 1999, you worked alongside Charles Jourdan and with brand Stephane Kelian – what did you learn during these experiences that you applied to your business?
The passion for style, details, craftsmanship, quality…and how to tell a story with each collection…being inspired by everything. Music, streets, women. And to look around you all the time.
Was one more influential than the other?
Both experiences were very different and hard to compare. At Charles Jourdan everything was very feminine with precise details. At Kelian he was exploring the fashion era of the 80s with new, destructed silhouettes.
How has the digital environment impacted the JMC business?
The reality is that the world is digital now and you must adapt your business to succeed. Aligning the JMC brand with retailers that have a strong online presence, as well as ecommerce retailers, has really impacted the way we think of distribution.
Personally I think when a women WANTS a pair of shoes she absolutely loves and NEEDS, she will buy them online or in store, what counts is the result. Also my client base knows the FIT of my shoes so it is easy to buy with a click…
Social media is also a new ad campaign – with visual stimulation as an amazing tool – I am getting used to it.
What’s it like designing shoes for men? How is it different?
For me, designing men’s shoes is fun because it’s something I get to wear! The design process is not as complex, but still very different, as men are looking for different qualities in shoes than women.
Are you based in New York full time? How has the city changed since in the last 15 years?
Yes, I am based in New York full time, in SoHo. Over the last 15 years New York has changed: shops, buildings, restaurants, and people all come and go, but the attitude, energy, and spirit of New York has stayed the same. New York has been such a source of inspiration in my life and work.
How have the shifts in urban culture affected you inspiration for design?
I think the urban trend we are seeing now is just that – a trend. I try not to design just because of trends, but focus on what my customers are asking for and wearing. I always have a bit of rock and roll infused in my designs that bring a contemporary edge to them.
What is it about shoes that make the woman?
Shoes are what tie together a woman’s wardrobe. You can be wearing a white t-shirt and denim jeans with a beautiful pair of stilettos or sandals and suddenly you are fabulous. Shoes elevate the woman both spiritually and physically.
Is there anything specific you can tell about a woman based on the shoes she’s wearing?
You can read a women’s style and personality by the type of shoes she is wearing. If she is wearing Jean-Michel Cazabat then is she is super cool! Of course!