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Bertrand Mak of Rupert Sanderson on the business of women’s shoes

Bertrand Mak of Rupert Sanderson on the business of women’s shoes Posted on August 29, 2012Leave a comment

When you first meet Bertrand Mak, you might assume two things: one, that he’s gay and two, that he’s got a shoe fetish.

Bertrand Mak - Rupert Sanderson Hong KongLuckily (for us), both are untrue, but the 29-year-old Asia partner of famed UK shoe designer Rupert Sanderson is so disturbingly fashionable, we couldn’t help ourselves from asking if he had a stylist.

“I can’t afford one!” Mak replied, laughing. Then again, he could’ve fooled us with his outfit that day: a crisp white shirt under a fitted light grey blazer, paired with slim navy chinos, brown leather shoes and bright, poppy red socks.

Clearly, not everyone is able to pull off this look, but Mak has a lot going for him — good looks, good taste and loads of confidence. While most men choose to spend their Sundays in board shorts and flip flops, that’s something you’ll never see Mak wearing, as he prefers jackets and chinos even on his days off.

“I think it’s important that one feels comfortable in what one wears,” said Mak in his posh UK accent. “In Hong Kong, it’s tricky because it’s so hot and humid. In the summer, you might see me in shorts … but it’s a rare sight.”

With such an eye for men’s fashion, we wondered why Mak, who previously worked for Louis Vuitton and Christie’s, now chose to work with women’s shoes, specifically with Rupert Sanderson.

“I first came across the brand in the middle of nowhere in London,” he recalled. “[The store] was in a small alley as opposed to being on the main high streets, and I had no idea who this person was. My ex-girlfriend and I were captivated by everything inside, including the shoes, decor and fit out, and she ended up buying a few pairs.”

“Back in Hong Kong when we were strolling around, I noticed that a lot of people were looking at her feet when she was wearing the shoes. At first I thought there was something wrong with her feet, but then I realised that they were looks of admiration.”

Recognising an opportunity when he saw one, Mak decided to get in touch with Rupert Sanderson about opening a Hong Kong store.

“I went on the website, desperately trying to find an email address to reach him that wasn’t ‘customer service’ or ‘info’,” he said. “Finally I got through and it all started with a few cold calls.”

Things moved quickly after their initial correspondence in August 2009, with the deal being sealed in October 2009 and the Rupert Sanderson Hong Kong store opening in March of 2010.

“I was lucky to be there at the right time and right place,” said Mak. “I like things that are elegant and subtle, and I get on so well with Rupert Sanderson because we both share the same general philosophy of understated elegance.”

Still, one of the most common questions Bertrand gets asked is whether he has a shoe fetish.

“The answer is no,” he insisted, adding that he has no idea of how many pairs of shoes he owns. “I think I wear about 10 regularly, is that a lot?”

While shoes are Mak’s main business, it’s watches that make his big eyes light up.

“I started collecting watches in university and it all went down hill from there,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated and captivated by them; it’s an obsession. I especially like vintage watches because they have a life, a character and each one is unique.”

In fact, Mak is already making his own line of bespoke watches in partnership with a watchmaker in Switzerland.

“I’m not yet selling them in Hong Kong,” he said with a sly grin while showing us the one on his wrist. “They’re sold to private buyers, just for those in the know.”

As for his top style tip?

“It might be a bit cliche, but I think it’s important that one isn’t blindly following the trends of the season,” he said. “You know, the herd effect.”

But as one of Hong Kong’s most fashionable men, Bertrand Mak is just going to have to put up with all the herds of men (and women) who will be following in his footsteps.

(Originally published on LifestyleAsia.com)

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