Bluedy, a small French footwear company started last year by Martin Jouanneau, a former New Balance executive, is selling 400 limited-edition Jimi Hendrix and Summer of Love inspired shoes. The shoes, which have flower-adorned guitars printed on them, have a retail price of €130 for the black style and €135 for the white model. The idea to tie footwear with the music culture, which Bluedy plans to do more of in the future, has helped the young company gain visibility in the media.

After 20 years of working for New Balance, Jouanneau decided to launch Bleudy in 2005. It started off with only about 25 clients in France who ordered about 4,000 pairs for the Spring/Summer 2007 season. At the end of 2007, Bluedy will have sold about 9,000 pairs. The company now counts about 55 clients, including a few retailers in Belgium, Sweden and Japan, in addition to a slightly expanded base of just more than 40 in France.

For the moment the company plans to concentrate on its existing accounts, providing ample service with established relationships, rather than trying for excessive growth. At the same time Jouanneau says there are certain regions where the brand is under-distributed, such as Eastern France. In the long term, having a network of about 100 retailers in France would be a good network, Jounneau says.

The company started off sourcing its shoes from India, but now has its shoes produced in China through Jounneau’s connections dating back to his New Balance days. Bluedy’s original partner in India was not geared toward giving the small French company the kind of technical attention it wanted, and so it was through James Baek that Jounneau now has his footwear made by a company in China called YCBL, which Baek owns. Baek produced a lot of products for New Balance Japan years ago, and Jouannaeu worked with him in the past to create specific New Balance shoes for the French market. Today, Baek acts as a kind of R&D director for Bluedy.

Jouanneau’s career at New Balance has given him several connections with potential clients outside of France. He was the manager of New Balance France from 1985 to 1999, then he headed up marketing for all of Europe, until he left the company to start Bluedy. Jouanneau hopes Bluedy can make a dent in the footwear market with a special color gimmick: The shoes bear the company’s special logo - a kind of tear drop shape with the option of changing its colors between red and blue, signifying that the wearer is available or not for dating. The line comprises only men’s shoes for the moment, but one women’s style, available in four colors, will be launched next February for the Spring/Summer 2008 season.