PARIS — Paris has a new reawakened heritage luxury leather goods brands in its midst: Létrange — with seventh-generation family member Sébastien Létrange behind the reboot.
Overseeing the artistic direction of the brand is Mathias Jaquemet, the former senior bag designer at Christian Dior Couture.
The company’s debut collection has entered the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann store here on exclusive.
Létrange was founded in 1838 by Auguste Lespiaut, a saddler at the former stables of the Palais du Louvre, and at one time was bigger than Hermès in size, according to its reviver.
As the company grew, the range of goods, as a supplier to the French army and the post office among other diverse clients, spanned hunting and travel accessories and molded leather bicycle and photography equipment, said the entrepreneur during an interview at the brand’s atelier in the eastern Paris suburb of Montreuil. The firm at its height had a Parisian workshop and sprawling factory in Montargis in the Loiret region. “At one point the company had grown so big there were plans to enter the stock exchange, but then World War I hit,” said Létrange.
Over its history the firm moved from being a leather goods specialist to a high-end shirtmaker for clients including Hermès, which in its final years represented around 70 percent of the business. It was shuttered in 2007, when then-owner Yves Bogrand retired.
Létrange, who has his own advertising agency, said he was exploring the idea of producing a book on the brand’s history when the idea to relaunch it struck.
His great-grandmother Henriette Bogrand, who “became a businesswoman by accident” when she was forced to take over the company during World War II at age 42 following the death of her husband, was a key motivator. Faced with leather shortages and “a staff of around 700 to feed,” her solution was to diversify into garment production. But keen to reset the dial, Létrange, who secured investment from companies including J.P. Morgan and Le Tanneur, wanted to go back to the brand’s roots as a leather goods specialist.
Not that the collection is backward looking. Instead, he tapped Jaquemet to help define a new modern aesthetic for the house’s next chapter whilst incorporating subtle nods to its heritage.
“The way he thinks about the constructions of the product is so different,” said Létrange of Jaquemet’s first collection, which combines noble leathers and innovative forms. Styles include the minimalist-chic “Attachant” bag — also available in a weekend bag version – where leather panels are held together by a flap system inspired by cardboard boxes, replacing seams.
“Empreinte” combines an architectural body with strict lines and a Surrealist, sculpted metal handle. The “Pourquoi Pas,” meanwhile — based on a bag within a bag with a removable clutch — was named after the boat on which one of the house’s clients, commander Jean Baptiste Charcot, traveled for his second polar expedition, with luggage by Létrange. (Jules Verne was also a customer.)
Features include hardware based on bolts used for carriages, canvas linings and handwoven quilted leather inspired by horse blankets. In place of exotic skins, lavish hand embroidery decorates a selection of bags from the Ego line, priced at around 15,000 euros a pop. (The regular bags start at 1,700 euros.)
“We want to be recognized as a seal of excellence in leather goods,” said Létrange.
A lot of the samples are developed by hand, with Jaquemet experimenting with folded paper to find new volumes. “I try to keep that feeling. It had a very modern design but there’s history,” said the designer, who was up for working on “something more personal” and a smaller structure.
“I wanted to rediscover this feeling where you can’t sleep because you’re so excited about what you’re doing in the day. It was just a perfect project because it’s such an amazing story — and name. Immediately the ideas started to pop,” he said.