Moynat isn’t a name you hear very often when it comes to luxury goods and yet, for those in the know, it is a name coveted by connoisseurs globally. Combining age-old techniques with modern sophistication, the craftsmanship at Moynat is a class apart.
The brand’s use of leather marquetry — ancient art of meticulously cutting leather and piecing it together to form a motif — is a signature. Founded in 1849 by Pauline Moynat in Paris, this trunk-making house shut its doors in 1976, only to be acquired by LVMH in 2010. LVMH hired Indian-born Ramesh Nair as the creative director to revive the heritage brand and since then there has been no looking back.
Since then, Moynat has had a quiet yet strong presence on the fashion landscape. Nair, who trained under Yohji Yamamoto and Christian Lacroix before joining Hermès for their women’s ready-to-wear under Martin Margiela, has built the brand using its heritage and techniques as starting point but contemporising it in a unique way. His Réjane bag is what you’d call a true fashion insider’s choice, its shape and design are lauded for fantastic craftsmanship.
Lifestyle Asia India spoke to Nair about what this journey has been like.
On his journey from India to Paris
I was lucky to hear of the founding of National Institute of Fashion Technology and I joined the very first class of fashion design in India, with professors from Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. Later, I traveled to Italy to study design and did a master’s program at Institut Français de la Mode, Paris. My early work experience included working with Y’s (Yohji Yamamoto) and Christian Lacroix before joining Hermès for their women’s ready-to-wear under Martin Margiela.
On reviving Moynat
Moynat is a unique case. We had no ‘living memory’ of the brand. This means that we had to extrapolate from vintage pieces, not only the techniques that were specific to the 19th and 20th century trunk-making but also those techniques that were specific to the House of Moynat. We did not have the luxury of relying on older artisans to help us nurture the skills. We did it ourselves by scouring the profession for talented individuals who have the potential for this level of workmanship and sometimes re-training artisans in the “Moynat way”.
On creating the iconic Réjane bag
I did not reinvent the Réjane, I invented it. The original Réjane bag had nothing to do with the bag I designed in 2011. Only the name was reused since it refers to the iconic Belle Epoque actress who was an ardent Moynat fan and the first star to have a handbag named after her. The inspiration for my Réjane bag is decidedly Art Deco, with clean lines and the balance between structured shape and sensual curves, and the iconic clasp.
On being an Indian in Paris
My Indian heritage and upbringing is part of my life experience, so it is by definition part of my thought process. But, it is not the only element that I bring to my creative process. The real challenge for me was that I never projected myself (nor was it ever my wish) to be an “Indian” designer in Europe. My ambition was to be a designer without being typecast or stereotyped by my origins.
On working with the likes of Yohji Yamamoto and Martin Margiela
I consider Martin Margiela, with whom I worked at Hermès, as a mentor. Working with Martin honed my conceptual and intellectual approach. It is this experience that made me realise that I am a minimalist and a purist. Jean Paul Gaultier strengthened my technique, repertoire, and the ability to connect references. I also identified with his use of humour in his work. Yohji Yamamoto was a seminal influence very early in my career; the experience taught me discipline and rigour in my execution.
On the most interesting bespoke trunk, ever commissioned
Since the early days of the automobile adventure, Moynat has been known for bespoke luggage, shaped to the contours of the vehicle and matched to the colour of the car. One of our first adventures was a complex Breakfast trunk designed around an original idea for chef Yannick Alleno, with integrated gas burners and custom appliances that took an entire year to produce. Another example is the Artist trunk, which combines both 19th-century trunk-making skills with carbon fibre and metal alloys in a revolutionary way. This trunk, designed for a Franco-Hungarian artist who began his career as a street artist, allows you to travel with your favourite art, easel, tools, and inspirational materials, to treat the world as your personal gallery or art studio.
On opening a Moynat store in India
We have Indian customers and followers across the world who are committed to Moynat and we value their support. Personally, one of the most heart-warming experiences that I can think of is to be recognised by my country people, especially when I least expect it, such as when I go to Kerala to visit family. Implantation of Moynat stores in different countries or cities has a lot to do with finding the right spot at the right time. So, when the time is right for the house and the right elements come together we would definitely consider coming to India.
All images: Courtesy Moynat