Longchamp, a third-generation French company that celebrates its 70th anniversary next month, built its origami-inspired Le Pliage bag into the number-one-selling women’s handbag in the world. Longchamp remained a leather goods producer until 2006 when it launched ready-to-wear and the following year, shoes. Now, there are spectacles with this brand’s iconic DNA from Marchon Eyewear. VCPN spoke with CEO Jean Cassegrain about Longchamp’s rich history and foray into this latest Accessory category and Sophie Delafontaine, artistic director, about interpreting the brand’s distinct style into eyewear.
VCPN: Why did you choose Marchon as the licensee for your first-ever eyewear collection?
Jean Cassegrain: Longchamp is present in more than 80 countries, and Marchon was one of the few companies to have this level of sophisticated distribution. Also, we got along very well with the Marchon design and business teams, and we were seduced by their approach and strategy. We see eyewear as the ultimate accessory of our fashion proposal.
VCPN: How has Longchamp evolved as a brand?
JC: The brand has gone through several phases as it started in the late ’40s selling luxury smoking items to American GIs who were based in France after WWII. Our signature product was a pipe decorated with leather which was a great hit among soldiers—it was the must-have product to bring back to the U.S. This is how the brand started to have some international recognition.
Very quickly, my grandfather and my father understood that traveling was going to develop in the second half of the century. Therefore, they started to develop small leather goods for men such as passport holders and luggage, and the brand became popular in airport boutiques and worldwide. It was only in the ‘80s that we started to focus on women’s bags with the success that we know. Le Pliage bag was created in 1993, and it became an iconic product instantly.
Ever since my grandfather created the company, we have tried to make it grow in a stable and sustainable way. We are very attached to the fact that we are manufacturing our own bags and small leather goods. It allows us to be very demanding in terms of quality and craftsmanship. It gives us also great responsibility towards all our employees who work in the Loire Valley workshop.
Our products try to be ingenious for people who always are on the go, such as Le Pliage style that folds and takes up very little space in your bag.
VCPN: Who is the target customer?
JC: The Longchamp fans are definitely part of our target as the collection will be distributed into our boutiques. We aim with this product to bring new customers to the brand. Eyewear typically is a fashion accessory and brings a cool factor to the Longchamp image. The styles designed fulfill this objective keeping the spirit of Longchamp: timeless products with a twist of fashion and elegance.
VCPN: What are the fashion elements in the Spring 2018 bags and other accessories that were used as inspiration for the eyewear styles?
Sophie Delafontaine: For our very first collection, we wanted to capitalize on Longchamp style and iconic assets. Adding a new category to the Longchamp universe is a very delicate exercise. It was key for me to be consistent with what Longchamp is and to relate to some of the iconic codes of the brand. The Marchon team understood very well what was important for the brand.
VCPN: Can you highlight some of the key styles and speak to the materials and technology used?
SD: The different styles that we have created are named after some of Longchamp iconic bags and connect with some existing bags details and hardware. For example, the Roseau Style and the “bamboo” accessory, the Paris Premier style and the “stirrup” detail, and Le Pliage style that folds entirely. The materials used are metal, acetate and a touch of leather.
VCPN: What did you learn about the eyewear design process?
SD: More than the process, the big difference for me was the [longer]amount of time to market, which is not the typical fashion season for bags and [apparel]. So you need to be very much in advance to present the collection.
VCPN: Can you describe your experience designing eyewear as as opposed to other fashion accessories?
SD: I love to learn new things, therefore it was great for me to work with experts like Marchon. They brought their knowledge of the technical aspect of the eyewear, and we brought the Longchamp spirit to make sure the final products would be consistent with the brand. Eyewear goes through the same path as creating bags—you want to find an iconic detail that will allow you to tell a story and to make a link with the Longchamp story.