Delvaux opens in Singapore

Delvaux artistic director Christina Zeller (above) says younger customers love the Ceci N'est Pas Un Delvaux (This is not a Delvaux, left) version of the Brilliant bag (far left), the brand's most classic bag.
Delvaux artistic director Christina Zeller says younger customers love the Ceci N'est Pas Un Delvaux (This is not a Delvaux, right) version of the Brilliant bag (left), the brand's most classic bag. PHOTOS: DELVAUX
Delvaux artistic director Christina Zeller (above) says younger customers love the Ceci N'est Pas Un Delvaux (This is not a Delvaux, left) version of the Brilliant bag (far left), the brand's most classic bag.
Delvaux artistic director Christina Zeller (above) says younger customers love the Ceci N'est Pas Un Delvaux (This is not a Delvaux) version of the Brilliant bag, the brand's most classic bag.

Luxury brand is known for its structured bags and use of exotic leathers

There is a new luxury player in town and it goes by the name Delvaux (say del-voh). But there is nothing new about it as it has been around for 186 years.

The brand is known for its high-quality structured bags and use of exotic leathers.

Until four years ago, however, it was still stuck in the past, says its artistic director Christina Zeller.

Ms Zeller, 57, who was here for the opening of the brand's first South-east Asian store at Scotts Square, recalls: "When I came to the brand in 2011, it wasn't exactly in a healthy financial position. There were no new developments, colours or materials. The brand was more traditional and conservative."

Founded in Brussels in 1829 by Charles Delvaux as a leather goods house, it was made the official supplier to the Belgian court in 1833. The brand has amassed up to 3,000 designs in its archives over the centuries. Ms Zeller, who joined the brand in 2011 as image and product director before assuming her current position this year, looked to these archives for inspiration.

We're all about attention and care to the product. It's not about over-branding or over-decorating, it's about the small details.

DELVAUX ARTISTIC DIRECTOR CHRISTINA ZELLER on the brand remaining focused on craftsmanship and quality despite introducing new bag styles and techniques

"I don't think I changed the brand, but rather, I helped it evolve. We are still working on our heritage designs, but there is a focus on fine-tuning the little details - introducing new sizes, changing the shape, using new materials, adding or removing certain accents. We reinterpret what we have in our archives, but we are never limited by that."

All Delvaux bags are handcrafted. The brand's most classic bag is the Brilliant, a structured handbag which was created in 1958. Other best-selling bags include Tempete, a design from 1967, and Madame, a crossbody bag from 1977. These have remained unchanged since they were created.

But new bag styles and techniques have also been introduced to keep the brand current. For example, the Toile Twist series features a technique of weaving a mixture of different leathers to mimic the way canvas is woven. Modern accents such as rubberised hardware have also been incorporated into its bags.

In spite of these changes, Ms Zeller says that at its core, Delvaux remains focused on craftsmanship and quality. She says no more than three people work on each bag, which can take up to nine hours to produce.

"We're all about attention and care to the product. It's not about over-branding or over-decorating, it's about the small details. We go with the words of Da Vinci: simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Prices for its classic calf leather bags range from about $6,000 to $8,000, depending on their size. Its bags are also available in crocodile, ostrich or pony hair. Prices for these are available on request.

Ms Zeller, who has worked in the fashion industry for 35 years with luxury brands such as Givenchy and Christian Lacroix, adds: "Delvaux is not mass market. Our customers are elite customers who understand the craftmanship that goes behind our high price positioning."

Delvaux has undergone more than cosmetic changes in the last four years. It has also expanded internationally.

Prior to 2011, the brand was sold only in Belgium, where it has 10 stores. Today, Delvaux has 27 stores worldwide in cities such as Tokyo, London and Paris. The brand has been owned by the Fung family of Hong Kong luxury goods investment firm First Heritage Brands since 2011.

Mr Marco Probst, chief executive officer of Delvaux, who was also in Singapore, says: "In 2011, we had an international sales share of around 4 per cent of our total turnover. Last year, it grew to 44 per cent and for this year, we estimate it to be around 70 per cent."

On opening the 1,200 sq ft store in Singapore, Ms Zeller says: "Singapore is definitely the South-east Asian centre for fashion and luxury. Most Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai customers come here to shop. As Delvaux is concerned with not over-distributing, we felt Singapore was the key place to open a store."

She reports that 40 to 45 per cent of their customers are Asian, based on worldwide sales.

"Asian women are very sophisticated, they like structured and boxy bags that are discreet and quiet. The younger ones also like a little humour, which explains why our Ceci N'est Pas Un Delvaux (This is not a Delvaux) Brilliant bag has been so widely raved about," she says. The Ceci N'est Pas Un Delvaux Brilliant retails at $11,450.

"Our brand is a good balance between innovation and tradition and between elegance and unconventional, witty expression."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2015, with the headline 'Delvaux opens in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe