The Moynat store in Paris

PARIS — Signaling a new development phase for Moynat, the French leather goods specialist has tapped a veteran design talent from Louis Vuitton, WWD has learned.

Nicholas Knightly, Vuitton’s design director for leather goods since 2004, joins Moynat effective July 1.

According to an internal announcement seen by WWD, Knightly will be responsible “for the complete creative offer for leather goods. With his design team, he will contribute to the continuing renewal of Moynat while at the same time working closely with the development teams.”

He succeeds Ramesh Nair at the design helm. Nair was recruited from Hermès when luxury titan Bernard Arnault revived the almost forgotten brand in 2011 via his Groupe Arnault holding and set up shop on the Rue Saint-Honoré steps away from Goyard, another 19th-century trunk-maker restored to glory.

The Réjane bag, Moynat bestseller.

Moynat’s best-selling Réjane bag.  Courtesy Photo

The announcement notes that Nair “is leaving to pursue personal projects. We thank him for his contribution to the development of Moynat.”

Moynat also recently named a new chief executive officer prized for her merchandising muscle and track record in digital excellence. Lisa Attia, previously senior vice president, merchandising and image for the Europe and Middle East regions at Sephora, took up the role on March 1 and reports to Sidney Toledano, chairman and ceo of LVMH Fashion Group and chairman of Moynat.

Attia was instrumental in raising the desirability of Sephora via product offerings, improved digital communications and in-store experiences, LVMH said at the time of her appointment.

LVMH has a reputation for grooming management talent and promoting from within. But this is one of the rare instances when a brand within Arnault’s vast luxury universe recruited a top creative figure from within.

While best known for his long and fruitful career at Vuitton, Knightly’s résumé also includes a stint as the creative director of Mulberry from 2002 to 2004, when he designed its popular Bayswater bag. He has also been head of design at Margaret Howell, creative director at Renown Look, and a consultant designer at Whistles. He lectured in fashion design at the University of Westminster in the mid-Nineties.

A graduate of Ravensbourne College of Art and Design, Knightly launched into fashion in 1991 with an eponymous company he operated for five years. Something of a boy wonder on the London fashion scene at the time, he was an early proponent of athleticwear as fashion, and also known for his slinky jersey dresses.

In 2015, drawing on his extensive experience designing leather goods for heritage brands, Knightly also launched his own handbag label, Mallet & Co., while continuing to design for Vuitton on a freelance basis from his home in the U.K.

gabrielle moynat bag

Moynat’s Gabrielle bag  Courtesy Photo

Knightly joins an elite handbag brand that has quietly established a global retail footprint spanning about 27 boutiques and shops-in-shop. Moynat prides itself on an artisanal approach based on rare raw materials and haute savoir-faire, and less of the fireworks and razzmatazz of other brands in Arnault’s family-controlled empire — which includes Dior, Givenchy and Fendi. (Moynat is not a subsidiary of LVMH but is controlled by the family-owned Groupe Arnault.)

Besides planting flagships in metropolitan cities like New York, London and Tokyo, Moynat has relied on pop-up operations at marquee department stores — Isetan in Tokyo, Dover Street Market in New York and Boon the Shop in Seoul — to build awareness and tout its haute Made-in-France craftsmanship. This method echoes the “caravan” approach Moynat employed more than a century ago, when it showcased its innovations at world fairs and auto shows.

Founded in 1849, Moynat is five years older than Vuitton and was best known for its lightweight, waterproof trunks for automobiles.

Ladylike top-handle handbags have been at the core of the business. Its best-selling Réjane bag boasts curved sides, while the top of the Limousine bag echoes the shape of trunks propped on the roof of a car. Leather Réjane bags retail for about 4,000 to 5,000 euros, while logo canvas totes, a newer product range, start at 1,100 euros.

Sources describe the brand as well-positioned to make further inroads in China, a linchpin luxury market.

Over almost a decade at the brand, Nair plied a discreet, refined architectural style with occasional touches of whimsy and humor. Moynat made a rare splash in 2014 when it invited Pharrell Williams to create a capsule range of handbags shaped like vintage steam locomotives — caboose included.

Moynat was one of the rare malletiers to be cofounded by a woman, Pauline Moynat, a merchant who teamed with the Coulembier family of artisans, and who was one of the first to set up a boutique at the foot of the Avenue de l’Opéra — the Champs-Élysées of its time — in 1869.