Now that we’re all proud being Belgian, thanks Red Devils for the World Cup fun, it’s time to look beyond the football field, onto another terrain we Belgians have been mastering for over decades…
Not to long ago, I had the honor to visit the ateliers of Delvaux in Brussels. It was all I ever expected and more. It made me proud to be Belgian on a whole new level. It made me long for a time all things fashion were created by skilled hands to endure the test of time.
They gave me a warm welcome and took me on a one hour trip through the whole process of making a designer bag. Needless to say I won’t be able to integrate all of what I’ve learned into one post. So I’ll start at the beginning, with an introduction. When your done reading all my posts, you’ll understand why a Delvaux bag is worth every penny!
The tour started with the present: showing us the new store concept Delvaux has been rolling out all over the world. Soon they’ll be taking over Tokyo, Paris and London with the new stores and next on the Belgian list for a make-over is Antwerp. The concept was created by two Luxembourg interior designers, Martine Feipel and Jean Bechameil, who worked together on the concept of hide and seek to showcase every type of bag to the fullest, regardless of the size, integrating the luxurious feel that has always been part of the house of Delvaux, but with a modern appeal to concur the world.
Today, Delvaux has two factories worldwide, the one in Brussels I visited and one more in France. Annually 17000 bags are produced worldwide. Brussels is specialized in working with exotic leathers and has the best craftsmen under their roof. They go abroad to teach the new young craftsmen how it’s done the Belgian way! But more on the crafts and leathers later.
In Brussels their are about 40 craftsmen working on the bags, but as this is the worldwide head quarters, also between 60 to 100 skilled people run the company from the heart of the kingdom of Belgium to spread the love for their product around the globe.
The biggest part of production is, at the moment, sold in Asia, a growing and young market with a flair for luxury, who dare to take a risk in style and color. This gives the people of Delvaux the opportunity to take it up a notch in design and color. Not at all a bad thing if you ask me, Belgians could use a bit more color and flair in their lives, so let’s stop buying our bags in black and beige shall we, their’s a whole other colorful world out there!
The Brussels factory is located in an old military base, l’Arsenal, and contains the ateliers, the leather library (oh, how I love this word!), the offices and a small museum. All in true Art Nouveau style, which takes you back in time, makes you feel the history that has been contained between these walls.
The house of Delvaux was founded in 1829 and only created travel luggage back then. Soon the ladies wanted to have some of their personal belongings close to their side while traveling by train, car or boat and the reason for ‘the handbag’ was born. The most iconic bag in the history of Belgium? The Brillant, created for the Brussels Expo of 1958. Still available today, still made out of 64 different pieces, still put together all by hand. Timeless, like the house of Delvaux.
To be continued…
Photos by Michiel.