The Belgians may have had a love affair with Delvaux since 1829, but on an international playing field, the world’s oldest fine leather goods house has not had the renown it deserves. All that is set to change. Luxury spenders are falling out of love with trend-driven ‘in-your-face’ product, and in a sea of fast fashion it’s the bespoke, handmade item that is garnering the ultimate cachet.
Armed with only the best leathers, stellar production values and now a new store concept, which embraces its heritage yet concurrently looks to the future, Delvaux’s discreet revolution looks set to take over the luxury world.
A new global store concept, freshly unveiled in the brand’s historical Galerie La Reine boutique in Brussels, comes courtesy of Luxembourg-based artists Martine Feipel and Jean Bechameil, together with architect Tiziano Vudafieri. La Reine was chosen as the launch boutique owing to its reputation as one of Brussels’ oldest shopping hubs, and the Art Deco arcade exterior serves as a welcome foil to Delvaux’s new space.
Dominating the interior is an airy white and grey palette, peppered with industrial wire-mesh panelling and elegant brass fittings. Overall, the feeling is modern, but with notable references to classicism and Surrealism – the later being a very big part of the nation’s cultural history. Look closer and seemingly simple display cabinets are bordered with subtle curves and come with hidden compartments. This duality – the contrast of rough industrial material and luxurious finishes, the mix of secrecy and theatricality – is at the heart of Delvaux’s store concept.
Feipel and Bechameil have clearly designed it as an elegant ode to Delvaux’s Belgian heritage, and yet, crucially, the themes are subtle enough to be applied to stores worldwide. ‘My strategy is “think local, act global”‘, Jean-Marc Loubier, president and CEO of Fung Brands, the privately held investment firm who owns Delvaux, said at the opening. The group’s acquisition of the family-owned brand may have caused rumblings when it was announced in 2011, but the fact of the matter is the move has clearly injected funds and international expertise into the running of this small luxury Belgian house.
Loubier reveals that Delvaux’s international client base has increased from two per cent to 15 per cent in the past couple of years. He expects this number to grow exponentially and cites the new store concept, which will be rolled out in a ‘cluster strategy’ of shop-in-shops and boutiques around the world, as a key player in that vision. ‘We now have a universe to welcome clients and connoisseurs and tell them a story, which is out of the ordinary. Clearly rooted in Belgium, the project is a global one.’