It’s an important milestone year for Longchamp. The French fashion luxury brand was founded in 1948 by Jean Cassegrain, a leather pipe maker who channeled his craftsmanship into brand we know and love today. His son, Philippe, who has been alongside the brand’s journey from day one, says he has never considered another path. Longchamp has always been a family business, now run by Philippe’s children; Jean as the CEO, Sophie Delafontaine as the creative director and Olivier who heads the brand development of their American boutiques. Philippe shares more gems about the evolution of Longchamp, and the story behind the iconic Le Pliage.
1. Philippe was 11 when his father founded the brand
“When I didn’t have school on Thursdays, I remember that I would help him by gilding leather cases. A few years later, I started doing some of the deliveries around Paris, before having the chance to travel across the world to meet our customers.
2. Longchamp was always going to be an international luxury brand
“(My father) had a vision from the start. He even commissioned Turenne Chevallereau to design the brand’s symbol – the Longchamp horse, with its fiery movement. He also createdthe ‘Smoke the Longchamp Pipe’ advert used during those years, which we had displayed on our Citroën 2CV delivery car. All of Paris could see the symbol of our fiery stallion stretching out like a liana. It was so new!”
3. Jean wanted Philippe to travel the world before starting his career
“My father welcomed customers from all over the world (at our first Paris showroom), curious to discover the latest novelties and up-and–coming fashion styles. At age 16, my father sent me on a trip around the world with travels across Africa before exploring Asia and the United States. Upon my return, I officially joined Longchamp and assisted my father in running the business, from creation, manufacturing and marketing to sales development.”
4. Back then, nobody had used nylon for bags
“During a trip to the US, I took with me a prototype for a collapsible travel bag. The result of my experimentation was the “Xtra bag,” which was made of a single piece of fabric. The fabric I selected was nylon, a strong yet light material that nobody had previously used for bags; it was light and resistant. In 1993, we reworked the idea to create Le Pliage. More playful and modern, Le Pliage shook up convention with its unique design and color palette introduced from the very first collection.
“Upon its arrival in stores, it was an instant success! Its trapezoidal structure, zip closure, two ears, two handles and flap teamed up with original new colors each season, and as always trimmed with “Russian Leather,” was a recipe for success. I think a brand needs to constantly reinvent itself and its products, that is why we change colors each season. All while keeping the same values!”
5. The family has always contributed to the business
“My mother helped my father by hosting customers at the Paris Fair, she ran the boutique and looked after everything with him. And we (the children) would help make cigarette cases or passport cases. I had a small gilding machine that I would use to mark Longchamp in gold leaf. When I turned 15, I got a Vespa so I could deliver on the Boulevard Haussmann, home to many luxury hotels: the Commodore, the Ambassador, the Cabarets, the Crillon… I delivered the orders of smokers’goods and orders to be displayed in storefronts.
“Tourists loved our collections! Jean-François and Dominique, my two brothers, joined in too: they did supplementary deliveries that I could not take charge of. We were four children and all of us grow up working for the family company. We were trained from an early age to run Longchamp. I was the eldest of my siblings, and since my brothers and sister had other professional plans, it was for me obvious to continue to run the business.”