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A Stylish Renaissance At Delvaux

Friday, Dec 3, 2010, 2:35 PM / Belgium

How do you turn a venerable accessory house into an exciting trendsetter within the luxury segment? Leave it to Belgian institution Delvaux to come up with an interesting proposal, putting acclaimed designer Veronique Branquinho at the helm of its creative direction and rethinking its direction and strategy in light of recent changes within the fashion industry.

The era of flashy, overlogoed, celebrity bags is showing signs of exhaustion and a new minimalism has kicked in, focusing on style and intelligent design. Classic French houses, such as Chloé, Céline and Hermès, are doing well with classic shapes and simpler designs. The often picky, discerning – and recession-aware – luxury client is on the lookout for exclusivity and longevity, two buzzwords within that competitive field.

Delvaux is a family business, which was created in 1829, and rose to prominence with its array of beautiful trunks. Stylish travellers demanding the best quality and functional design started buying their pieces and came back for more. Building up on its growing success, Delvaux introduced travel bags, ladies’ purses and accessories at the beginning of the 20th century. Bought in 1933 by Franz Schwennicke, the Belgian house was the first to introduce the notion of seasonal collections within the leather goods sector. In 1970, his wife Solange took over, being one of the first women in Europe to lead an international luxury house. She was instrumental in developing the brand, respecting Delvaux’s high standards and unique craftsmanship, while increasing the design power of its atelier.

Branquinho has no intention of going against the grain of Delvaux’s beautiful skins. In fact, the ethics of the company turned out to be the perfect fit for her: “I started working with Delvaux when they asked me to do a one-off collaboration with them, designing three styles. We got on really well and I was offered to head the creative studio afterwards. Delvaux is a reference in Belgium and we share values in common, such as respect for tradition, love for craftsmanship and appreciation for beautiful things.” It takes months – sometimes even years – to create bags at Delvaux. Nothing is left to chance and the atelier carefully selects the skins it plans on working with. Each stitch, detail and added piece must have a reason to exist. Delvaux’s accessories are meant to last a lifetime and are passed on from parents to children. A Delvaux bag connects generations. In fact, the company also offers a repair service in-house, regardless of the item’s age or origin.

Impressed by the richness of the house, Branquinho decided it was time to celebrate its history, while cleaning things up a bit: “I remember going through the archive and realising how much had actually been done. There were so many different variations of certain styles that it felt almost overwhelming. I thought it was time to tidy things up in a way, focusing on the strongest styles and their reinterpretation. I therefore created the ‘Héritage’ collection, including the most emblematic styles, such as the ‘Brillant’, the ‘Givry’ and the ‘Tempête’. This season, we added the ‘Gibus’ – a smaller 80s shoulder strap style – to the line.” The timelessness of the house clearly appeals to Branquinho: “Delvaux was never a brand interested in making ‘It’ bags that would disappear after one season. It’s always been more about elegance and style for the house.”

Even though the company still makes most of its turnover in Belgium, Delvaux’s bags and accessories have recently been picked up by the Maria Luisa corner at Printemps in Paris, Barney’s in New York, 10 Corso Como in Seoul and Dover Street Market in London, where they are selling fast. The recent success of the brand can be partly explained by Branquinho’s “design detox” and fashion’s current love affair with simplicity. Even though Delvaux shunned trends and never looked for publicity, it’s becoming of one of the most sought-after brands amongst fashion insiders. Its appeal certainly lies in the fact that fewer bags are produced than with other luxury groups. As Pascale Delcor, Delvaux’ PR Manager puts it, overexposure is clearly not a strategy: “We do not produce thousands of bags a year, unlike our competitors in the market. Delvaux is a niche, confidential brand. Around forty people work here in the Brussels atelier and we can control each step of our product development, from first sketch to final sample. We are willing to grow in the long term, but will only do it without renouncing our integrity.”

Philippe Pourhashemi | TribaSpace

Product Groups: Accessories, Leatherwear, Creation
Markets: Men's, Other, Women's

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