With 186 years of heritage under its belt, Delvaux, the Belgian leather goods house, continues to celebrate the beautiful, often exotic skins and full-grain leathers, all made by hand in Belgium and France.
‘Le Brilliant’ Bag
For those who like their handbag to keep everyone guessing, the allure of a subtle aesthetic is where smaller heritage brands excel. For them, discreet luxury comes naturally.
Delvaux is one such leather house, which has managed to stay under-the-radar and maintain an element of mystique. It is the oldest leather goods brand in the world, having started making handbags and small leather goods as far back as 1829.
At the Bond Street store, which opened last year, Delvaux’s Artistic Director, Christina Zeller is buzzing about the place. A tall, striking blonde, today she is dressed in a white shirt and long cut-off denim shorts. An impressive white Perspex necklace, covering most of her neckline and upper chest completes her look.
Zeller joined Delvaux at the end of 2011, having previously worked at Karl Lagerfeld, Lacroix, Lanvin and with Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy. The first thing she points out is that she is a businesswoman, not a designer, but she knows exactly how a handbag should look and function.
For Zeller, it’s the little things that count – from the way a bag opens, to a pop of colour or the slight repositioning of a shoulder strap. By refreshing (as opposed to producing new designs each season), each bag remains true to quality, just like a finely tuned Jaguar car. This level of craftsmanship also ensures that each Delvaux design is as exquisitely luxurious inside as it is out. The entirely hand-made process takes between six and 25 hours to make.
No sooner do I blink and Zeller has picked a white ‘Le Brilliant’, one of Delvaux’s most iconic designs, off a shelf. First designed by an architect in 1957, Le Brilliant is composed of 64 pieces and this season features a soft rubber clasp. She then shows me how proportions and fine detailing can transport this classic design from one season to the next. “If you imagine the clasp in gold or silver, it’s an entirely different bag,” she says.
As for Zeller’s part in driving sales she adds: “My challenge is to help reinvent Delvaux, not destroy its past but to bring modernity and irreverence. We don’t make ‘It Bags’, we create a beautiful classic product that can seduce both young and old.”
This may be an old brand but it is up with the times. Recently it has embraced social media, Instagram especially, which is proving successful in reaching a younger audience. And, as if right on cue, a young woman wearing jeans and Stan Smith trainers steps in front of one of the store’s full-length mirrors and tries on a tan-coloured cross shoulder ‘Madam’ bag. “See!” says Zeller, tilting her head in the woman’s direction.
But younger doesn’t necessarily mean trend-led. “We are not a fashion brand that has to constantly churn out new pieces. We are a leather goods company with the luxury of having time on our sides. If we decide we are not happy with something and want to keep working on it indefinitely then that’s what we do.”