The French luxury accessories brand celebrates its 60th birthday this year with a range inspired by its first handbags.
It is 1948 and nestling in a sleepy Parisian suburb, close to the legendary Longchamp horse-racing track, sits a dusty mill from which Jean Cassegrain is putting the final touches to his debut collection of gentleman’s smoking accessories. Fast-forward 60 years and the brand, which took its name from the race track, has become a global leader in the accessories market.
At 60 most people would be coasting to retirement, but in branded terms Longchamp is just warming up. Cassegrain’s grandson, also named Jean, is knee-deep in preparations for his family-owned company’s 60th anniversary.
On July 2, in the middle of Paris couture week, Longchamp will unveil its 60th anniversary range in time for autumn 08 selling. “We are relaunching a line that is very important to our history,” explains Jean Cassegrain, Longchamp’s director general. “We are reproducing our first ever collection of handbags that was designed by my father Philippe in the 1970s for the Japanese market.”
Comprising 10 items, the range is remarkably contemporary with styles including a tote, a satchel, a small handbag and a purse, all finished in Longchamp’s distinctive house check and available in tan, black, and patent.
“We’ve been extremely particular in terms of how faithful the collection is. Apart from a new wheeled suitcase, the shapes are exactly the same. We’ve even used the same tanneries in Alsace that worked on the range in the 1970s. This collection was the springboard that took Longchamp from the more masculine accessories – which the brand was initially known for – to the women’s accessories that now account for 75% of our sales,” Cassegrain explains. Unfortunately, at the time of going to press no pictures of the range were available.
This autumn the brand also unveils its most ambitious ready-to-wear offer to date. Developed by a designer whose identity remains undisclosed for contractual reasons, the outerwear-heavy range takes classic shapes such as the trench coat and reinterprets them into slim contemporary silhouettes with fastening details that reflect those used on Longchamp’s most recognisable bag styles. “We’ve been trialling some ready-to-wear for the past three seasons, but this autumn’s range will be the strongest,” says Cassegrain.
Internationally, the brand is training its efforts on recession-busting markets such as Brazil, the Middle East and the Far East. “Six months ago we had no Middle Eastern stores, now we have three and nine more are planned in the next six months with our franchise partner, Chalhoub Group,” Cassegrain says.
“In May we opened in São Paulo, as well as a 2,700sq ft store in Beijing, which takes our China tally to 12. We have two stores opening in Dubai in July and August with further openings this summer in Kuwait and Beirut and we already have two stores in Russia. We have to look to the future and ensure we’re operating in the fastest-growing markets.”
Longchamp 020 7629 7271 www.longchamp.com
60: Number of Longchamp’s accounts in the UK
102: Number of Longchamp stores globally
1,000: Number of people employed by Longchamp
£211m: Longchamp’s total annual turnover