Men's Racing document holder. The Racing
collection brings an energetic, timeless feel to
men's bags. With a slightly minimalist look, this
collection of document holders breaks all the
rules of a classic men's collection.
ANGELES ó Longchamp, the traditional French luxury
accessories and clothing brand famous for its nylon Le
Pliage bags, touched down in Los Angeles recently to
celebrate its decade-long relationship with the
eccentric fashion designer Jeremy Scott.
the years, Longchamp has let Scott use Le Pliage as a
canvas for a number of limited-edition designs inspired
by his self-named ready-to-wear collections. The highly
collectible bags have featured eye-popping graphics
including brightly colored piles of pills, 1980s
Madballs characters, Zodiac symbols and retro postcard
images. A $370 "Greetings from Hollywood"
design was released to coincide with the L.A.
celebration and anniversary.
by the late Jean Cassegrain in 1948, Longchamp is still
a family business 60-plus years later, run by the second
and third generations. I sat down with creative director
Sophie Delafontaine and Chief Executive Jean Cassegrain
(the founderís grandchildren) while they were in town,
to learn about the brandís heritage, including the
back story behind their father Philippe Cassegrainís
origami-like Pliage design, which debuted in 1993. Here
are the takeaways.
started with pipes, not bags ó and even Elvis was a
lot of young men were smoking pipes at the time, and a
lot of Americans were coming through Paris after World
War II. At some point, Elvis Presley must have been
through Paris and purchased the pipe," Cassegrain
said. "The name of the store was not Longchamp at
first. It was a tobacconist, selling cigarettes, cigars,
lighters and stuff like that. My grandfather was
successful supplying the GIs in Paris, but when they
went home he was left with an excess. So to give his
pipes an identity, he decided to cover them in leather
and stamp them with the Longchamp name, after the
racetrack in Bois de Boulogne, since another company was
already using the name Cassegrain." In the 1950s,
the company expanded into leather goods, then luggage
and eventually handbags and ready-to-wear.
than 30 million Le Pliage bags have been sold worldwide,
and it takes more than 100 steps to make each one.
tote that folds flat, Le Pliage (French for "the
folding") comes in a range of sizes and fabrics
including leather, nylon and canvas, all accented with a
signature leather oval that snaps over the leather
handles. On the brandís website, you can customize
your Pliage by choosing colors and monograms.
father was the first person to have the idea to make
luggage from nylon. And the first nylon he used was the
nylon used by the French army for the floor of their
tents. It was khaki-colored," Cassegrain explains.
"Itís not that unique to put crocodile or gold
everywhere to make luxury," he says. "Luxury
is something (that is) well-suited to your need."
makes clothing to accessorize its bags, not the other
started with six or seven pieces ó coats, jackets,
very simple," says Delafontaine. "Season after
season, the collection has grown, and now we also have
shoes. I always start by designing the handbag
collection first, which is different from most brands. I
like to use leather and play with it. I make jackets
that look like cashmere sweaters but are in lambskin so
soft and light, you can fold them in your luggage, for
may seem traditional, but the Jeremy Scott collaboration
has been seamless, so much so that not one of his
designs has ever been rejected.
call ourselves an optimistic luxury brand, and we like
his optimistic point of view," says Delafontaine.
"Heís fun, pop and colorful, and he has a huge
sense of humor ó even about himself. His designs may
be eccentric but it never becomes trash."
is not the only luxury goods brand hand-making bags in
France; Longchamp does it too.
has six factories in France, mostly in the Loire Valley
region. Half of what the company makes is done there,
and half is done outside. "Itís difficult to
automatize the making of handbags, so a lot of it is
manual," Cassegrain says. "Hermes is quite
unique, insofar as the same person makes an entire bag.
Even brands like Vuitton and Chanel donít work like
that. But the know-how of our workshops is
the 20th anniversary of Le Pliage, we created the Pliage
Heritage, a version of the bag in full leather,"
Delafontaine says. "The opposite of foldable nylon,
it is very structured. And I was pleased to work with
our team on it to show all the qualities we have at our