On the occasion of the 60th birthday of Longchamp, Luxos wanted to meet an emblematic figure of this family-run fashion house born in 1948. Sophie Delafontaine works alongside all of her family members (her parents and her two brothers) as Artistic Director. Responsible for the image and creation across the collections of bags, leatherwear, luggage, business lines, menswear and ready-to-wear, Sophie Delafontaine keeps her smile and her passion and never stops (except to look after her three children!). She is a remarkable woman.
Why the name “Longchamp”?
My grandfather, Monsieur Cassegrain, whose name evokes milling (“grain” has the same meaning in French and English) and who is the founder of this business, didn’t really want a grain mill as the logo. However, he really liked the windmill found on the Longchamp hippodrome. Right from the beginning, he had always had a vision of an international label. This was after the Second World War and the transit of all the American GI ’s through Paris. He was creative and open-minded. He thought that Longchamp was very chic and could be easily pronounced in all languages and easily remembered. That’s how it all started.
The familial nature of Longchamp seems to be essential to you.
It’s true that it holds great importance, mainly on a sentimental level. Also I think that it allows us to have a real freedom of expression and action. We are a family business and totally independent. We can take risks. Even if we are in a fashion world where everything changes and evolves very quickly, we have a certain stability in the development without rupturing. We are constantly moving, researching, innovating. That’s because we’re linked and we have the same desires to go far.
Have you always wanted to be part of this business, to rejoin your family?
That wasn’t always the case. As a teenager who dreamt of working with their parents? I was more attracted to the world of children. Once I finished my studies at ESMOD (a well-known fashion college in France) where I spent a year specialising in children’s clothes, I had the chance to work for Bonpoint and to become the assistant of Marie-France Cohen (the co-founder of Bonpoint, along with her husband). I worked alongside them as a stylist for four years. It was an amazing adventure. Bonpoint is also a French family business which shares quite a few similarities with my parents’ business, but that’s it. And so with time I became aware of what I had with Longchamp, the tools of the trade, a real savoir-faire of the values which are very close and familiar to me. I also realised the values that I could bring to the fashion house. I know all of the steps that Longchamp has taken, all of its evolutions at any given moment. I wanted to make a contribution.
One of Longchamp’s specialities is the ability of being able to reach all generations; from young girls to grandmothers….what is your secret?
It’s a strength. The phenomenon of the Pliage bag is quite special; school students all want a Pliage bag and you see it as often in Paris as you do in Korea. It appeals to all age brackets and to all social groups. In one single apartment, the porter and the proprietor could both own a Pliage bag. It’s a richness, a strength. You could call it an “It” bag. It was designed in 1993 by my father who has always had a functional approach. Accessories should be light and pliable, timeless and easy, all-purpose and useful for all occasions. At the launch, we already had it in many colours and formats. Very quickly we learned that the bag was a base for many possible looks. Now, we have numerous versions from imaginative design. We have made it in fabrics like velvet, flannel, linen, embroidered canvas, patterned canvas, transparent PVC as if it were a jar and artistic versions by Tracy Emin and Jeremy Scott. We have also created humorous versions. Every year at Christmas we take out the collectors. We’re carrying out a sort of round-the-world experience. For New Year’s Eve 2008, we’re doing Scandinavia, Africa and India. We aren’t just in the domain of fashion or of the label itself. It’s a point of reference, a special phenomenon.
For three years, Kate Moss has been the face of your publicity campaigns. How did you choose this fashion icon?
We have just shot our sixth campaign with her for the winter. Indeed we have been working with Kate Moss for three years. At the time, we really thought about it. We were looking for someone who could convey the image of a woman who was modern, active - a mother, but at the same time with a rock-and-roll side that we all want to have. We also wanted someone with an international dimension. It was also important to accentuate the modern side given that the savoir-faire and quality of our products is already recognised. And then the name Kate came to us, the only woman who was all of that. It was her. She is a fashion icon. She is known all over the world. She is active, but also caring, and rock-and-roll. She completely representsthe image of Longchamp that we wanted. Today 60 percent of our sales are made in the international market so we have to reach the whole world. The good thing about Kate Moss is that French women, just like women from Berlin or China, can recognise a little bit of themselves in her. What’s more, and what’s great about her, is that each season she brings something new to our campaigns.