On May 2, the day before the new Longchamp flagship store opened on Fifth Avenue in New York, we paid it a visit. Outside, a new champagne-hued facade greeted guests, and inside much awaited discovery. As we walked in, we caught sight of Transchromie Mécanique Aléatoire—a tall, kinetic art installation by the Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez that’s inherently built into the stairwell’s wall. The store’s opening also marked the release of a capsule collection and pop-up shop in SoHo with Hood By Air’s co-founder Shayne Oliver, and a party that night with campaign model Kendall Jenner. For the occasion, Whitewall spoke with the founder’s grandson, CEO Jean Cassegrain, and granddaughter, artistic director Sophie Delafontaine.
WHITEWALL: Let’s start by rewinding to 1948 when your grandfather transformed an old tobacco shop into an accessory brand—Longchamp. How did that come about?
JEAN CASSEGRAIN: He created his own brand, Longchamp, which initially was pipes for smokers, but also things like cigarette cases and ashtrays in leather. Step by step, all their men’s products were made out of leather, like wallets, men’s bags, and travel bags.
And then in the eighties, the big change was to start making women’s bags. Now the women’s part has become much bigger than the men’s.
SOPHIE DELAFONTAINE: But it’s starting to change. It’s true that ten years ago a man was buying a briefcase every ten years. Now, they are much more in demand of new novelty and product colors. That’s why we are very excited to have this new space. It’s very colorful, and it’s now much more dynamic.
WW: Tell us a bit about this new flagship store. What are some special elements?
JC: It’s very important for the brand to show its face on Fifth Avenue. It’s a store, but it’s also like a giant billboard. The storefront is one of the key elements. Inside, we always try to have unique points that give personality to each specific location. So, we have the facade, but also the artwork in the store. This artwork works for here because it’s colorful and our brand is a lot about color. And it’s moving. We’re also about movement and energy.
WW: Sophie, tell us about the new Fall/Winter 2018 collection. What was the initial idea?
SD: The idea was around femininity, but also inspired by Amazon women like Kendall, who is our new ambassador. For me, she is a modern Amazon. She’s dynamic in her travels; she does different things at the same time. The collection is of the spirit of dynamic, strong characters—very confident and feminine.
WW: Tell us a bit about your new 19-piece collection with Shayne Oliver.
JC: We wanted to do something that would bring a New York perspective to the brand. It was interesting to see how someone like Shayne takes this. We are opening a pop-up store on the top floor of our SoHo store, and the store itself is quite spectacular. We translated all this in the pop-up store, so it’s a totally different Longchamp.
WW: Art also has become a new force for Longchamp.
JC: Yes. We have developed some connections to art, whether it’s installing art in stores, like here or in some other stores; or collaborating with artists on product design—for example, Sarah Morris, Tracey Emin, and Jeremy Scott. We also have our Artwork Series for store renovations, so the outside awning is taken over by an artist. In Paris, we had a store collaboration with New York artist Ryan McGinness, which was quite spectacular.
WW: Why is art important?
JC: It’s fun. And we enjoy it. It also brings fresh air, new ideas, and perspective. The essence of our work is combining artistic dimension and practicality—that is what we are always trying to do regardless of the product. We’re always trying to balance both. We’re in both worlds—the world industry and the world of art.
SD: It’s also always a question of creativity. What’s nice in collaboration is the exchange with artists. More than the art itself, what we really enjoy is working together to exchange creativity. It’s a very interesting exercise to try to understand their universe, and for them to have fresh eyes on our product because we know it too well.