You’ve heard of Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton. But do you know Delvaux?
Probably not. It’s existence is little known to the bag-buying masses, even though it is actually the oldest fine leather luxury goods company in the world. Delvaux is an under-the-radar leather house that is eight years older than Hermes, to which is often compared by those who know about it. Delvaux is a gem of a brand worth discovering.
Founded by Charles Delvaux in Belgium in 1829, the House of Delvaux has been manufacturing bags of exceptional quality and exquisite craftsmanship for almost two centuries. The prestigious House of Delvaux has been a warrant holder to the Royal Court of Belgium since 1883 — a title it still holds today.
The company produces about 15,000 ultra-luxurious, hand–crafted (yes, made by hand) bags in their ateliers in Belguim and France. They use the highest quality hides from the best tanneries in France and Italy and are renowned for their rare exotic leathers, such as alligator, crocodile, python, lizard and ostrich. Delvaux signatures are superb finishes and great attention to detail both inside and out.
Each Delvaux bag is a labour-intensive undertaking (taking between six and 25 hours to make), and each one comes with a card bearing the signature of the master craftsman who constructed it. Led by a team of designers rather than by a singular creative director, who, merchandising director Christina Zeller says, all value “tradition, mastery, excellence and discipline”. She states,
Ironically, although they are not pursuing the fashionistas, the fashionistas are finding them. Delvaux has been an avante-garde brand for 187 years, infusing their venerable line with wit and fantasy—innovative sculptural and structured silhouettes, daring proportions, and exciting colour palettes. Delvaux has created more than 3,000 designs in its history, and since 1938 has documented each in Le Livre d’Or (The Golden Book), a registry of the company’s products in a magnificent set of bound volumes. To this day, every new creation continues to be thoroughly described, sketched, and catalogued.
Unlike many other bag makers that have come and gone, Delvaux has managed to remain both traditional and modern and have mastered the trick of being a commercial success without becoming too well-known despite their reputation, royal patronage, and celebrity sightings.Their bags are the antithesis of the ubiquitous in-the-moment It Bag carried by status-seekers. “There’s a level of customers now who don’t want the bag that everyone else has,” says Zeller.
She points out that the iconic Brilliant bag, which made its first appearance in 1958 at the Brussels World Fair and is still available today (updated twice yearly in new leathers and colours), is composed of 64 pieces (and takes 8 hours to assemble): It’s like a bag within a bag, the construction is so complex and yet to look at it’s so simple and graceful.” And mastering that dichotomy between simplicity and complexity is perhaps Delvaux’s greatest secret to lasting success. As Steve Jobs noted,” Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” It is here that Delvaux excells. Their design vocabulary of simplicity, elegance, and timelessness has an inherent appeal that defies the passing of years. Theirs is the type of classic bag you have for life and then pass down to your daughter.
Delvaux, which, as of 2011, is owned by the Chinese Fung Brands (which also own Sonia Rykiel and Robert Clergerie) has two designers working under Zeller’s directions on the growing family of styles – Le Brillant (designed in 1958), Le Tempête (1967), Le Madame (1977), Le Simplissime (1969), Le Givry (1977), Le Pin (1972) and Le Louise (1973). – 50 working in Delvaux’s two factories, approximately 200 retail staff and 15 shops worldwide (Delvaux operates about 10 boutiques in Belgium, and in 2014, opened its first international flagship boutiques in Paris, Tokyo and London.) In 2014, a line of men’s bags was added. Delvaux also creates small leather goods, custom jewellery and scarves.
My Delvaux bag (as shown in post photo) is newly acquired. Specs: Vintage, Rare, Kelly style, Black box calf leather, Lining black leather, with mirror and case. Superb condition. Carried in the hand. One compartment, three patch pockets, one pen holder, one zip pocket. Mechanical closure. Measurements: 26 cm / 18 cm / 6 cm . Delvaux Dustbag.
A wonderful article about buying a Delvaux (here)