Longchamp’s Sophie Delafontaine on Heritage and Keeping Things in the Family
Popping into town recently for the official opening of the new Longchamp flagship store at Marina Bay Sands, Sophie Delafontaine, artistic director of Longchamp, and granddaughter of the brand’s founder, speaks of fashion, keeping things in the family and staying true to heritage.
Longchamp isn’t a new player at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, but its new store has grown — by a good 50 per cent. It officially makes this new baby, that reopened in May 2016, a flagship store that showcases all categories of products from the French luxury brand and leather maker, including Longhchamp’s ready-to-wear and shoes.
Artistic director, Sophie Delafontaine, granddaughter of Longchamp’s founder, Jean Cassegrain, shares more about the evolving family business and capitalising on its heritage.
What was the significance of opening a flagship store in Singapore?
Sophie Delafontaine It’s very important for Longchamp here in Singapore, but also a very important step for Longchamp in Southeast Asia. The location is really strategic. It’s the opportunity to connect with customers coming from around the region: Malaysia, Indonesia… It’s also the opportunity to really show who is Longchamp today. With the renovation of the store, we have the opportunity to show all the categories of products: Ready-to-wear, shoes, all our leather handbags. The brand has evolved a lot in the last few years.
Who is the Longchamp woman in Singapore?
Delafontaine It’s the same as all around the world. We are speaking mostly to a very active and dynamic woman, an international woman who is really looking for high-level, quality products. She has a sense of fashion, but she’s really self-confident and wants to her own style, so she’s looking for a product that she can wear, mix and match. I think here in Singapore, we can really do well with the Longchamp collection.
The brand has a longstanding reputation for making leather goods. Do you think you’ve built the same recognition for your ready-to-wear collections?
Delafontaine At Longchamp we are known for doing things step by step. We never make any [dramatic] revolutions. Things are always evolving. Looking back on the [brand’s] beginnings, when my grandfather started with the tobacco store, of course the brand has changed a lot. But we’ve always had a constant focus on leather. Even with the ready-to-wear, I like to play with leather; doing a coat, jacket, skirts, dresses in leather. Even on a silk blouse, I would have a touch of leather. Nobody’s waiting for a new fashion brand, because there is a lot of ready-to-wear everywhere. At Longchamp we are a leather brand, and I try to keep this identity. Now we also have shoes.
What are the strengths of being part of a family business, and do you think it has its limitations?
Delafontaine No, there are no limitations. I try do things in the best way possible with my heart. I have the opportunity to work with an amazing workshop and craftsmanship. At Longchamp we have a huge know-how. I think it has helped me to develop products; it’s given me the opportunity to create new products. The same people have been working at the workshop for so long. Every season we create a lot of novelties, so I capitalise on the heritage to create new products.
Are you ever concerned that Longchamp would get lost in the sea of fashion brands thanks to the globally-accessible online retail market?
Delafontaine No. The fact that we’re a family-owned business means we are really trying to build things in the long-term. The idea is not to be present all of the world, and just to sell, to sell, to sell. The idea is to do things properly, to find the right location, the right space. It’s why for example in Singapore we once worked with a distributor. Now we have reintegrated to have a consistent store with something that reflects Longchamp today. And I hope we can preserve it.
How do you see the brand evolving in the next five years?
Delafontaine We have a lot to improve. My grandfather started with a tobacco store and it sold mainly men’s products. After my father, they started to develop feminine products with handbags. I brought the fashion with ready-to-wear, shoes. And now I would like to pay a little bit more attention to men’s products [again]. Here in Singapore, in the Marina Bay Sands store, we dedicated a real space to the men’s categories. It’s something that we would really like to improve in the next few years.