More than just bags

Longchamp's fall/winter 2015 ready-to-wear collection (left and right) showcases squares and lines in contrasting colours.
Longchamp's fall/winter 2015 ready-to-wear collection (left and right) showcases squares and lines in contrasting colours. PHOTOS: LONGCHAMP
Longchamp's artistic director Sophie Delafontaine steered the brand to become more fashion- focused. Longchamp's fall/winter 2015 ready-to-wear collection (left and right) showcases squares and lines in contrasting colours.
Longchamp's artistic director Sophie Delafontaine steered the brand to become more fashion- focused.

Longchamp, known for its foldable bag, has a ready-to-wear collection

Longchamp is best known for its foldable nylon Le Pliage bag - saviour of travellers everywhere with exploding luggage - but the Paris luxury leather goods house can dress a woman from head to toe, too.

"Most people don't know about Longchamp's ready-to-wear collection," says Longchamp Singapore's marketing and communications manager Aurelie Fritsch.

"However, when our customers find out about it, they are interested as the collection is in line with our vision and style."

Launched in 2006 for the opening of Longchamp's Manhattan store in New York, the collection consisted then of only four or five pieces of outerwear.

In 2012, however, the brand developed its first full collection, comprising dresses, separates, knitwear and shoes.

Prices start from $355 for a printed silk blouse to $3,350 for a coat. The collection is available at Longchamp's Paragon and Ion Orchard outlets.

Not surprisingly, Longchamp's ready-to-wear collections are centred on its bags.

"Others design their accessories around their clothes, but our team starts from the leather goods. We build each look from there," says artistic and managing director Sophie Delafontaine, 47, over the telephone. "Longchamp is, after all, a leather house."

"Bags are a good starting point for the collection because what you wear while carrying a structured tote won't be the same as what you're wearing with a clutch or a hobo bag," she adds.

Ms Delafontaine, a third-generation member of Longchamp's founding Cassegrain family (her grandfather Jean Cassegrain started Longchamp in 1948 as a purveyor of men's leather goods), is the woman responsible for the brand's diversification into ready-to-wear products.

She joined the family business in 1995 because she saw the potential of Longchamp "beyond just luggage and leather goods".

"In recent years," she says, "to keep Longchamp at the top of its game, I steered the brand to become more fashion-focused."

Growing up, she learnt from her father, the company's president, Mr Philippe Cassegrain. She says: "My father emphasised a lot on quality, our heritage and our know-how.

"That's my biggest challenge - retaining that but finding something new and unexpected to surprise our customers."

After graduating from French fashion school ESMOD with a first prize for her graduate collection, she joined French luxury childrenswear label Bonpoint, where she learnt the ropes of building a collection.

"Children's clothes are tiny. As a result, I was trained to be meticulous - every detail, every stitch, every embellishment counts. Proportion is important too," she says.

"I keep that in mind even up till today. You see that attention to detail in every collection of Longchamp's."

For the fall/winter 2015 collection, Ms Delafontaine gleaned inspiration from the geometric patterns and unusual colour combinations of the Memphis Group, a collective of Italian designers and architects started in the 1980s.

"The collection is graphic. There are a lot of colour and prints, but we keep them modern and wearable by incorporating monochrome."

The key print of the season - a composition of squares and lines in contrasting colours - is accented by black panels or collars and paired with black tights, to tone down the drama of the overall look.

Ms Delafontaine plans to develop a men's ready-to-wear line.

But for now, she is happy focusing on the Longchamp woman, whom she describes as "very active, very self-confident. She likes fashion, but is not a fashion victim".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2015, with the headline 'More than just bags'. Print Edition | Subscribe