A shoe lover, a passionate, this is how you can describe Etienne Brunel the founder of “Barre et Brunel”. Etienne shares his experience as an entrepreneur and the insight of his experience on the Asian market
Tell us a bit about yourself Etienne and your background.
After graduating in Finance, in Marseille, I flew to Asia to work and experience something new. However, the stability of my job and the daily routine were not enough. My passion for handmade shoes was still too strong. I spent most of my free time behind my screen learning about shoes or designing some models.
Then, what did happen?
To be able to evolve in one sector while thinking of another is difficult. In my opinion it is the hard law of the entrepreneurship. Therefore I resigned to devote myself totally to my passion.
I noticed that on the Asian market there was a lake on quality shoes and I said to myself that there was a place to take. In fact, the offer is non-existent. However, we must not believe that everything is done deal. I first undertook a rewarding experience at Suitsupply and then Loding the shoe brand.
When did you create “Barre et Brunel”?
I contacted a French brand to import them to the Chinese Market, but no news since. It was not really a failure because it reinforces my choice and “Barre and Brunel Footwear” was born. After one year of research, the leathers come from France, the production is made in Spain in a company that works leather for nearly 100 years.
Where does the name come from?
“Barre et Brunel” came from the association of my mother maiden name and my father’s name. An association that makes who I am and my personality. This personality you find it today in my shoe line.
What was the challenge in your entrepreneurship journey?
You have to adapt to another culture or another market. This is why the brand adapts and especially for footwear. We all have a different foot and a way to put it on too. Me, I like wearing my shoes tight to avoid some unsightly folds. In Asia it will be very different, question of style but especially of comfort. We have thinnest foot in Europe, while in Hong Kong the foot is stronger. So, I have to adapt to a wider shoe shape by proposing a shape of width E, which corresponds to a half of a size more than for us Europeans. This is not necessarily good taste but it is so, you must know how to compound and this choice is part of it.
Tell us a bit about your shoe line and your offer
It is in my opinion at the image of the market in which it is proposed. Now not completely because it still brings a French touch to a market where Italian and English products are stronger. And some Asians boot maker are really good references too.
In my opinion, the idea is not to follow the trend because I don’t like that. It is more a question of going through the generations
I am able to offer models in stock from my line of classics, or models with customization. Indeed, you can “customize” your soles with your initials, the monogram is the must to differentiate. Handmade with brass nails, or have a skate affixed directly with its built-in iron. A built-in iron will provide effective protection to the front of your shoes, which is a most delicate part of the first ports. All these items at a moderate price.
Which of your models would you recommend?
I fell for the model “Jenn” in “brown suede calf” not yet initials for my soles but the idea charm me.
In your opinion what will be your first impression as a customer when you receive your first delivery?
My first impression will be positive. The box is thought like a scabbard and it changes. The shoes are delivered to you in their pouches, with cedar wood shoetrees. To choose your size, no surprises, stay on your usual size. The little extra, that some “confreres” do not necessarily think of, a pair of spare laces with some tips to maintain your shoes. Especially if you choose a patina or leather shoe
What is next for “Barre et Brunel”?
By 2018, new partnerships should be concluded for me and the brand on the Asian market. I am giving myself two years to see but my desire to return to France is also present.