“I design for women who lead a normal life – handbags which are as practical and useful as possible to them,” says French accessories designer Jérôme Dreyfuss at the opening of his new London store. Set in a former bank at the end of Bruton Street facing Berkeley Square, the gleaming, new flagship is the perfect showcase for his signature slouchy totes and shoulder bags cut from the softest leathers.
The amiable designer with his mop of curly grey hair adds: “It is all about the lightness and the softness of the bags as well as the functional details.” These include built-in flashlights, which illuminate the inside of bags. He tells me that the inspiration for such practical touches stems from his female friends and his wife who just happens to be the fashion designer Isabel Marant. “In a way I’m lucky they all kept losing things – keys, lipstick, pens… as it made me provide an intelligent solution with my designs,” he muses.
And here’s another quirky fact. Each bag in this season’s collection has a male name intended to be their owners ‘indispensible’ life partner. There’s ‘Mario’ for example – a fringed suede shoulder bag – and ‘Albert’, another handy number cut from leopard print ponyskin. Both styles have my pulse racing.
Dreyfuss also has stores in New York, Seoul, Tokyo and Taipei, but London is his first European store to open outside of Paris and judging by his enthusiasm, he couldn’t be happier to be here.
“I love walking around the streets, looking at the architecture and seeing the stores which are so beautiful,” he says. “All the trends come from London – music, art, fashion… everything! I think all designers fantasise about opening a store in London, so being in Mayfair is a dream come true.”
Tonight the store is thronging with a stylish home crowd. Guests include; fashion illustrator Daisy de Villeneuve and Royal Ballet soloist, Eric Underwood. Elsewhere, I spy models Lilah Parsons and Doina Ciobanu along with stylist Kim Hersov and celebrity PR Salvo Nicosia.
As for the store itself, while the structure of the former property has remained intact, the space has been reconfigured to reflect the modernist spirit of the ‘50s and ‘80s. There are high-rise vestibules, inspired by the work of Italian architect Carlo Scarpa, father of the Brutalism movement.
“I like simple materials such as wood and concrete but wanted to put a modern spin on them here,” says Dreyfuss who has a deep understanding of architectural details.“ It is really important that everyone feels at home when they come into my stores.”
So what does he like most about his new London space? “I really love the wood slatted window screens. When it is really sunny outside, the shadows from the trees in Berkeley square flicker around the store.” My eyes however, are fixed firmly on the contents of the shelves.