PARIS — S.T. Dupont, the Paris maker of luxury pens and lighters, is leveraging its almost forgotten heritage as a trunk maker to the stars and plotting a thrust into women’s accessories, WWD has learned.
On Sept. 29, during Paris Fashion Week, the company plans to host an event at its flagship here at 51 Avenue Montaigne, which has been overhauled to showcase new ranges of handbags, travel cases and small leather goods.
The architect of the project is industry veteran Mounir Moufarrige, who was quietly named vice chairman of S.T. Dupont’s supervisory board in late 2009 and has since been retooling one of France’s storied 19th-century “malletiers,” an elite group that includes Louis Vuitton, Goyard and Moynat.
Moufarrige recently had a hand in revving up Goyard, plotting its wholesale and retail expansion — and juicing up the product range with color and personalization options.
A peripatetic figure in luxury goods for decades, Moufarrige is probably best known for his long career at Compagnie Financiere Richemont, most notably at Montblanc, where he put its emblematic black pen at the center of development.
He also headed two fashion houses at Richemont — Karl Lagerfeld and Chloé — and took the daring course of installing Stella McCartney, at age 25, to succeed Lagerfeld at Chloé, and hiring Phoebe Philo as her chief deputy.
More recently, Moufarrige has been devoted to the watch brands U-Boat and Welder following a controversial stint helming Emanuel Ungaro during which he tapped Lindsay Lohan as its artistic adviser.
At S.T. Dupont, the executive said that by leveraging its leather goods savoir-faire — once a magnet for European royals and Hollywood stars — he will make the brand more appealing to department stores, which can showcase products on the main floor, and to potential franchise partners looking for new retail concepts.
The publicly listed company, whose majority shareholder is Chinese entrepreneur Dickson Poon, generated revenues of 67 million euros, or $94.5 million at average exchange rates, in the fiscal year ended March 31. It counts 20 directly operated stores, 41 franchise boutiques, 138 shop-in-shops and about 1,100 wholesale accounts selling lighters, pens and small leather goods, according to Moufarrige.
When the executive noticed a tag line in tiny print on his new business card saying “malletier depuis 1872,” or “trunk maker since 1872” in English, he decided to drill down.
“The archives were in closets — totally forgotten,” Mourfarrige said. “I was discovering things and going berserk.”
In 1850, society photographer Simon Tissot Dupont laid the groundwork for a leap into the carriage trade by immortalizing royals and aristocrats, including Napoleon III and his court. In 1871, he set up a workshop for bespoke carriages, adding a leather goods workshop a year later. In 1935, the Maharajah of Patalia ordered 100 vanity cases for his ladies in waiting, each containing a gold cigarette lighter, foreshadowing a new business vector for the entrepreneurial family.
Order books bulged in the first half of the 20th century, with clients said to include Coco Chanel, the Duke of Windsor, Gianni Agnelli, Sir Winston Churchill and John D. Rockefeller.
In 1947, the French government offered an S.T. Dupont travel case to Queen Elizabeth II as a wedding gift, a tradition repeated earlier this year when Prince William and Catherine Middleton were dispatched a case from its reopened workshops in Faverges, France.
The new leather goods range is inspired by S.T. Dupont’s first women’s handbag: The Riviera style from 1953 famously purchased by Audrey Hepburn, whose son, Sean, is expected to attend next week’s festivities.
Moufarrige also resurrected a long dormant double-D monogram, once used to line travel bags or decorate hard-case luggage. Coated canvas models can be personalized with the customer’s month of birth, hand-painted like initials. The executive figures the birth dates will spark conversation and fuel customer curiosity.
S.T. Dupont has made several rejuvenation attempts over the years, including a short-lived push into high-end men’s wear. But interest in European heritage brands has spiked recently as consumers seek a safe haven in trusted purveyors, and emerging markets like China satisfy their appetites for storied brands.
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman and chief executive Bernard Arnault recently purchased Moynat, which is five years older than Vuitton, via his Groupe Arnault investment vehicle. It is understood Arnault plans to reactivate the brand, which was founded in 1849 and is best known for its lightweight, waterproof trunks for automobiles.
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