MOYNAT's re-birth is the result of true passion, love and admiration for all that MOYNAT stood for and still stands for today: discrete elegance, innovation, superior craftsmanship and a bold personality!
We join Guillaume Davin and Ramesh Nair, respectively MOYNAT's President and Creative Director, on their voyage to bring one of the oldest trunk makers in France to worldwide success.
MOYNAT 348 Rue Saint Honoré Paris
Guillaume, you come from an incredibly successful career culminating in your roles as Head of Parfums Christian Dior Japan and as Senior Vice President at Louis Vuitton Japan, and Ramesh you have worked as a senior designer for some of then most important and influential luxury maisons, such as Hermès. What compelled you both to leave it all behind and jump into a completely new adventure? How did it all come about?
It was a heaven-sent opportunity for both of us, who had been dreaming of giving new life to a great name. This happens once in a lifetime, so we had to take the opportunity. You could say it was a gift of God -- or maybe a lucky accident!
The "Manufacture de Malles" MOYNAT was established in 1849 and lived through more than a century of success. The house lost this position sometime in the 1950’s, because it hadn’t changed with the times. While the house is no longer known, it has a bold personality, and a tradition of innovation and superior craftsmanship.
Reviving a house like MOYNAT, preserving its personality, returning it to the summit of craftsmanship, regaining the success that it had achieved as a result of its quality and discreet elegance is an exciting challenge. When we first looked at the archives, we were moved by the same elements: the color palette of the wardrobe trunks and the curves of the limousine trunks. We soon discovered that cabin and wardrobe trunks were painted in the owner’s color of choice (often a bright color) and automobile trunks were shaped to match the curves of the car. We had never seen this before and felt that these were differentiating points for MOYNAT.
Then we learned that MOYNAT was founded before most of the other malletiers, that it was led by a woman, that it had patented a waterproof trunk before anyone else and that it had pioneered the invention of automobile trunks.
We knew that the challenge would be balancing continuity with change: adapting age-old techniques to products reflecting the modern era. It isn’t only about reviving / mastering old techniques and keeping the tradition, but about making that tradition relevant today. This is very complex.
Inside MOYNAT 348 Rue Saint Honoré Paris
Why MOYNAT? What was it about MOYNAT which made you and Bernard Arnault, President of LVMH amongst other things, think that this was the right company to ‘re-awaken’ and the right time to do it?
Mr Arnault's passion for the house and his desire to revive a sleeping beauty was key in our decision. At the same time, we felt that, around the world, there is a deep fascination with French heritage brands and fine malletiers. The malletiers club is very exclusive.
MOYNAT PAULINE - City Bag in Matt Crocodile Porous
What would you consider to be your greatest achievements and your greatest challenges at MOYNAT since you commenced your voyage?
Guillaume. : Giving freedom to Ramesh and challenging the craftsmen to express their talents!
Ramesh : One of the biggest achievements for me has been breathing new life into this unique brand, staying focused and true to the essence of MOYNAT.
Rather than the traditional approach of building the brand image through the usual means of advertising such as the notoriously expensive marketing campaigns in print etc, MOYNAT’s approach appears to be more that of building a luxury brand. Indeed Bernard Arnault was quoted as saying “The first goal is not sales. The first goal is to tell the story.” Through exclusivity, divine craftsmanship, finest fabric and leathers, classic yet contemporary designs whose appeal never fades and exceptional client relationship building, MOYNAT seems to be directed more to the connoisseurs and luxury bag ‘purists’ who are not only loyal but devout to the brand, and creating more of these ‘devoutees’ rather than the ‘fashionistas’, would you agree?
This is not merely a renovation of what existed. The result is something brand new. We stripped the house’s interior down to its bare structure, with its defining elements allowing us to reinvent the layout completely and incorporate modern elements. The Limousine briefcase is a great example of this re-invention: it is a demonstration of our skills as trunk makers, an homage to our curved Limousine trunk and a functional yet bold design in the way it contours to your legs when you use it. It is an object of restrained and tranquil elegance. Tradition in movement! It appeals to people who are independent in their tastes and choices and not influenced by fads, but looking for beautifully made objects.
Ramesh: You are said to have spent a huge amount of time in your first months at MOYNAT researching the DNA of the brand, going through its extensive archives but also scouring internet and luxury and antique markets trying to track down long lost models of MOYNAT’s trunks and designs. What has been your your greatest find, and is there an item in particular that still eludes you?
The greatest find was in assembling the story of the brand itself. There was no single “most-fantastic” find because each piece had its own fascinating history, and so each one contributed to the bigger story of MOYNAT. It was like a treasure hunt, or solving a puzzle. That said, we are still looking for some of the more eccentric pieces that we saw in the old MOYNAT catalogues, like the trunk in green crocodile that belonged to Gabrielle Réjane and was used in one of her stage productions, or the trunk that was fitted to the side of an automobile and contained a tent that unfolded to become a traveling house.
Vintage Moynat Trunks
Henri Rapin who was the Artistic Director of MOYNAT throughout the Art Deco period, heavily transformed and influenced MOYNAT, allowing MOYNAT to win several gold, silver and bronze medals and of course the Diplôme d’Honneur at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels, , particularly thanks to his ‘red morocco leather trunk, thus defining MOYNAT as the leading French trunk maker ‘par excellence’. What part in particular Rapin’s work and artistic direction and influence did you both feel would be imperative to carry through to the next generation of MOYNAT collections?
The idea of working with an artist like Henri Rapin was very innovative at the start of the 20th century. Rapin worked with MOYNAT during the Art Deco period, which was a very interesting creative era, and is echoed in the design and architecture of the store. There is a strong Bauhaus influence, which was of course coherent with the way MOYNAT married design with engineering, form with function. That tradition is imperative for us to continue in the shapes we create and the functional details we incorporate. In terms of specific elements, the original “toile initiale” with the repeating ‘M’ was originally designed by Rapin, and we have evolved and updated it, and continue to use it today.
A MOYNAT Trunk & the MOYNAT QUATTRO in MONAT's Initial Canvas
Ramesh you were heavily inspired by the automobile trunks and designs from the past creating a strong bond with MOYNAT's heritage but how much of Ramesh Nair would you say is in this collection and which design in particular do you feel represents you best? Do you have a particular favorite?
We are not creating the brand from nothing, so I work within a framework. The objective is to create the right fit between the history of the brand and my design ideas and philosophy. Just like the trunks, which worked by following the contours of the car, I work to create a fit between myself and MOYNAT. As for my favorite, it is difficult for me to choose just one. The audacity of the Quattro and the proportions of the Pauline Haut make them very special.
Guillaume what is your favorite from the collection and why?
The Pauline 24H is my favorite piece. It is lightweight, elegant, functional and unique in its style and shape. It is simple yet unlike any other travel bag. I have used the first prototype for over one year and it still looks and holds perfectly. People in the Eurostar approached me to ask where I bought the bag. When people tell us they love a bag that took us one and a half years to develop, and that takes an artisan 10 hours to craft, it is very rewarding. We have created an emotion! What strikes us with trunks, beautiful vintage luggage and travel, is the emotional impact that they have on you. Beautiful luggage has high emotional value for the owner. We enjoy creating contemporary objects, made with exceptionally fine craftsmanship.
MOYNAT PAULINE 24H Bordeaux
What has been the best selling item from the collection to date?
The Quattro cabas, the Pauline and the Ballerine.
What has the reaction of the 'pre Arnault, Davin, Nair ' MOYNAT clients been to the collection, and to the pretty radical changes in general?
People who own and know MOYNAT’s vintage trunks have been quite proud to come to the store, share their stories and rediscover the brand. We’ve even had some bring us products for restoration.
Boutique Moynat in the early 1900s
When it was first announced that Groupe Arnault had bought the company in 2010 several critics suggested that the intention was that of purely using the Maison’s name without taking into account or valuing its heritage, and turning it into ‘just another brand name’, would you say that their fears have been allayed?
Groupe Arnault bought the company in 2010, but creating just another brand was never the intent; otherwise why take on the constraints inherent in something that existed before? Each and every step has been focused on connecting today’s MOYNAT to its heritage and giving new body and life to what we discovered in the archives.
We have personally worked on each aspect of the brand’s revival and we can assure you that it has been a very deep, very intense and emotional journey.
1911 MOYNAT Advert
Guillaume, in the interviews you have given your passion for MOYNAT, for its heritage but even more so for the creative direction it has now taken is tangible. What is it that you love about it so much?
Both Ramesh and I have the same passion for details and believe in the timelessness of luxury. We are passionate about nurturing MOYNAT and piloting a process of restoration, reinvention and beautification. The project is very close to our hearts.
Fear of a challenge and competition does not seem to belong to the management team at MOYNAT as you chose to open the store on famed Rue Saint Honoré, home to luxury leather goods names such as Hermés and Goyard. What do you believe distinguishes MOYNAT from the rest?
The main challenge consists in restoring MOYNAT to the splendor it enjoyed in the early 20th century. It is about continuing the tradition and inviting new fans to fall in love with the house, and less about competing with other houses rue Saint Honoré.
Our "maison de vente" is located 5 minutes away from our original house in the original Paris trunkmaking district. Competition was fierce at that time with over 100 trunkmakers in a small area. MOYNAT was founded by a woman, which was very rare in 1849 and gives a particular personality to the maison. There is grace and lightness in the overall aspect, and yet there is innovation and engineering that comes through in the details, the shapes, the colors.
The shape of a 1911 MOYNAT trunk inspires the exquisite shape of the PAULINE!
You have both worked in luxury business for a long time. How would you define luxury and how do you believe MOYNAT fits into your vision of luxury?
We share the same objective of getting back to the real meaning of luxury: to offer objects that contribute to fine living, objects which will become known for their craftsmanship, endurance, discretion, elegance and their innovative design rather than bowing to the trends of the day. Ramesh has said that his definition of luxury is never having to explain. If luxury is an object, it should be timeless: always beautiful, always relevant. When something is luxurious, its proximity to perfection becomes self-evident in every way.
Some luxury companies have subscribed to a rather more democratic view of luxury redefining it as ‘accessible luxury’, do you subscribe to this view or is luxury in your opinion strictly tied to ‘exclusivity’ through limited supply and of course price?
Exclusivity is not about keeping people out or creating artificial scarcity. Top of the line materials are naturally scarce. Then an artisan needs to invest the skill, time and focus necessary to turn those materials into high quality objects. And developing the skill is itself the result of time and focus! It is that rarity and effort that makes luxury objects exclusive and valuable. Luxury is not an objective, it is a consequence.
Antoine Arnault stated some months back that consumers in once called ‘emerging markets’ and now defined by most luxury market analysts as ‘growth markets’ have now developed their taste for luxury becoming more refined and leaving behind their quest for all that was ‘branded’ in favour of heritage, craftsmanship and durability. Would you agree with this statement and have you found this to be the case with MOYNAT, i.e. has there been interest for a brand which not withstanding its heritage and excellence is still in the process of making its mark out there in the general market?
There are different kinds of luxury customers. Some do want a recognizable brand because it can function like a membership badge for a particular group. For others, carrying a recognizable object is part of the “theater” of life, so it is more about personal expression. Still others, who see luxury objects as being “best in class”, see them almost like an investment. And there are many more. And these differences exist in all markets, both mature and emerging. Brands need to stay true to their own values and to their own followers rather than trying to satisfy the entire market, which is impossible.
MOYNAT Vintage Trunks
With this in mind many companies are trying to return to their ‘artisan roots’, and many find that the skills and traditions have been lost through lack of investment in this sector. Indeed one company in particular re-hired all of its original artisans in a bid for them to train a younger generation of artisans - a rather expensive enterprise to say the least! What is MOYNAT's policy in this regard, and what difficulties if any did you have recruiting artisans with skills that were traditionally passed down from generation to generation and have over the last couple of decades been lost?
We don’t have the luxury of relying on older artisans to help us nurture the skills. We’re doing it ourselves by scouring the profession for talented individuals who have done this kind of work. Our trunk maker is a “compagnon du devoir”, roughly translated, a guild member who trains younger artisans in his craft. So the artisans we work with have the skills we look for, but they don’t often find the opportunity to do the kind of work we do. Luxury today has become very fast moving and sometimes we have to re-train artisans in the “MOYNAT way”.
Rue Saint Honoré Morning Sun Effect Place du Theatre Francais 1898 Camille Pissarro
The scourge of counterfeits is rampant when it comes to luxury handbags in particular (although I am sure you’ll be happy to know that a recent report suggested interest in counterfeits has dropped significantly over the last year or so) how does MOYNAT combat this phenomenon and what are the distinguishing marks a MOYNAT client should always look out for?
First and foremost, there is only one Moynat store in the world today, so all clients have to do to ensure their bags and luggage are the genuine article, is to purchase only from our stores.
Of course, we have also taken steps to ensure that all our designs are patented and registered.
5 Star Hotel Le Meurice, Paris - The Restaurant
As you point out you currently have one point of sale: the fabulous flagship store in Rue Saint Honore' in Paris, do you plan to open more stores over the next few years or will your clients have to travel to Paris to order their bag (not that we are complaining of course, wanting to purchase a MOYNAT is a wonderful excuse to ‘have to’ travel to Paris!)?
We intend to keep one unique Maison de Vente for a long period -- as MOYNAT did for over a century at the Place du Theatre Francais -- to offer the best possible service to our clients. We also feel that the purchase of a beautiful bag should be linked to a moment in your life, a memorable visit to Paris, a visit to us on rue Saint Honoré, which could be followed by a coffee at Angelina, lunch at the Hotel Meurice or a drink at the Ritz.
A question many of our readers will be wanting to know is : “How long does one have to wait from ordering the bag to finally being able to walk Rue Saint Honore' clutching their beloved Pauline or Paradis?”
We don’t have a “waiting list” but it is true that our standards for the artisans mean that each bag takes time to make. This is the reason that sometimes clients have to place orders for a particular model or colour.
However, chances are that you will walk into our store, select your bag and walk out in a few minutes carrying your choice.
Ryoanji Dry Garden Kyoto, Japan (image via Blog Odisea)
Guillaume, you worked and lived in Japan for many years, a country of dichotomies as someone once described it: heavily steeped in culture and tradition which it holds onto very tightly yet at the forefront of advancement and innovation. How do you think that experience changed you and how do you believe it influences your work at MOYNAT?
Japan is a place where tradition meets innovation. The Japanese people respect tradition but love innovation: they actually hate change but love newness, a paradox! They protect their ancient crafts, ceramics, lacquer, textiles, woodwork, but expect the artisans to fuse modernity with ancient skills. It is a place where you can develop an eye for quality and a refined sensibility. It will be a great testing ground for our quality.
Institut Français de la Mode
Ramesh you grew up in India and trained in France at the Institut Français de la Mode, how important is your heritage to you and how do you think it influences your designs, if at all?
Being Indian and coming from a country with a 5000-year strong culture, this cannot help but be part of who I am and my of design psyche. There are many areas that are a great fit between my own heritage and that of Moynat, such as the emphasis on the hand-made and artisanal approach.
Another aspect is the importance of details, because as in Indian tradition, these are very important. Each detail carries significance and is not just added on as adornment, but tells a complex story about the object, about the person who made the object and about the person who wears or carries the object.
Our final question: Le Point described Moynat as the Sleeping Beauty does that make you, Guillaume and Ramesh and of course Bernard Arnault three ‘Prince Charmings’ who have awoken the princess?
That’s very flattering, but we hope this has been more than just a fairytale! We hope to become known for our quality, endurance and discreet elegance more than bowing to the trends of the day. We hope to be and remain a fixture of the French luxury goods scene for a while.
I and all the Green Pebbles Girls for that matter, are sure they will be!
MOYNAT: THE PHOENIX EMERGES FROM THE ASHES, AND IS SET TO STAY!
Should you wish to find out more about Moynat's history, you can purchase a wonderful book "Moynat: la réussite d'une audacieuse"
Limited Edition of "Moynat: la réussite d'une audacieuse"
Natalia Dodi Migliorini