If you know your bags, then you’d be familiar with Longchamp‘s iconic Le Pliage. And if you don’t count yourself a bag geek, chances are you’ll still know the Pliage, a quintessential travel essential you are bound to have eyed on a co-passenger as you stood at the airport check-in counter. While the Le Pliage already has a storied place in the fashion accessories universe, it is the same iconic status that artistic director Sophie Delafontaine is vying for, for the rest of Longchamp’s bags. Ever since she took over the creative reigns of Longchamp almost two decades ago, bags like Penelope, Effrontée, and Longchamp 3D became bestsellers. But that’s not all. Under her, Longchamp evolved into a lifestyle brand. Last year, to mark its 70th anniversary, the French luxury brand known for its leathergoods formally forayed into ready-to-wear with a runway show at New York Fashion Week, and also signed on Kendall Jenner as their new brand ambassador. The move was a milestone after the footwear launch of 2012, again something Delafontaine had pushed. The fringed gladiators remain a bestseller to date.
Longchamp’s recent successes are part of Delafontaine’s reimagining of the brand, to be one that exudes freshness. In keeping with this, Longchamp collaborated with Jeremy Scott (2018) and Mary Katrantzou (2012)and Shayne Oliver (2018). Her keen eye to turn Longchamp into an experiences also extends to her being a patron of artists like Astrid Krogh, who was given a free reign to work on the brand’s Champs-Elysées store. For their New Bond Street store in London, Delafontaine called on renowned American artist Maya Hayuk who transformed the space.
Thanks to Delafontaine’s fresh take on Longchamp classics, the brand has seen considerable growth in Asian markets, particularly Singapore, China, and India. In 217, it opened its largest boutique on Omotesando Avenue in Tokyo, stocking luggage, ready-to-wear, shoes, and leather goods.
The granddaughter of Jean Cassegrain, who founded Longchamp in Paris in 1948, Delafontaine has been able to retain Longchamp’s creative persona over the past 20 years. Along with her father, Philippe Cassegrain, president of the brand, and her brother Jean Cassegrain, CEO, she has been able to run Longchamp as an independent, family-owned business.
Lifestyle Asia India spoke to Delafontaine about carrying on the family legacy and making Longchamp a brand of the future.
On transforming Longchamp from a leather goods brand to a lifestyle brand
We’ve had ready-to-wear collections for more than 10 years now but it’s true that we started with bags. The bags gave the input to the creation of our ready-to-wear collections and to the shoes. At Longchamp, the ready-to-wear was the accessory, not the bag. But we became a lifestyle brand and we’re proud to count among big fashion brands now. Just like for the bags, we’re driven by audacity and Parisian elegance. We always have the strong and independent yet sensual Longchamp woman in mind. She’s always the starting point.
On her vision for Longchamp
All I may say for the moment is that we’re working on the read-to-wear and shoes collections development to make it more exciting each season. We’re making more and more innovations in the materials we use, in our designs, but always being faithful to our values. We’ve also had two runway shows in NYC now – the third one coming during the SS ’20 NYFW – so it’s really important to us to keep on showing that Longchamp is unexpected and really more fashion-oriented. It was a huge step for our brand and I’m proud that we did it.
On collaborations with Jeremy Scott, Mary Katrantzou, and Shayne Oliver
Above all, a collaboration is about encounters. Do you meet the right person at the right time? Do you look in the same direction? Do you have the same expectations? It’s not an easy thing to make things work between two different mindsets with usually different backgrounds. But it’s always an amazing and unexpected experience. It’s a matter of alchemy.
On Longchamp’s iconic Le Pliage and her other favourites
Le Pliage is a real phenomenon. It is a universal accessory that has been sporting its elegant simplicity around the world for more than 20 years now. The success of this bag comes from its unique, recognisable design. It is made out of light and strong material and each season it brings new colours. To me, it symbolises all of Longchamp’s craftsmanship expertise and timeless luxury that transcends borders and generations. Besides this, I also love the Le Pliage® Cuir bag or one from our Roseau line. They do embody what is, in my opinion, a truly timeless bag.
On keeping Longchamp, a family-owned independent business
Nowadays it’s challenging to remain independent with all the competitors and the business going so fast but being independent is our strength and keeps us innovative. At Longchamp, we know what taking risks means and we’re 100 percent involved in the company with all the teams we work with.
On working closely with the family
We are a team. My father, Philippe Cassegrain, president of Longchamp, has always seen his father creating, and it feels natural to me to present ideas and collections to the rest of the family. There is more freedom when the people you’re working with are your father and brother. It’s amazing to share it all with your family. Everything is easier.
All images: Courtesy Longchamp