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Belgium’s House of Delvaux

The oldest fine leather luxury goods house in the world.

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Delvaux has witnessed a few changes in luxury since its inception. Founded in Brussels in 1829, technically it’s older than Belgium, which became a constitutional monarchy in 1830. (It is also eight years older than Hermès, with which it is often compared.) Delvaux has been on a mission to retain the traditions that made it the choice of royals—the exceptional full-grain leather and the craftsmanship that ensures the bags are exquisitely luxurious inside and out—while at the same time modernizing. At 188 years old, Delvaux is only just beginning to achieve global renown.

Christina Zeller has propelled the beloved Belgian house to the next step of its evolution. She joined Delvaux as artistic director at the end of 2011, having previously worked at Christian Lacroix, Lanvin, and Givenchy. Zeller understands sophistication, but has a flair for irreverence. She knows keenly what she likes. On this evening at Nordstrom Vancouver, the Delvaux faithful convene to meet the woman who asserts, “We are against ‘it’ bags.”

After many years in the fashion industry, Zeller joined the ranks at Delvaux because she “wanted to have a challenge and something more exclusive. There is a fine line between commercial success and keeping exclusivity. I never want to be ‘in fashion’ with Delvaux because when you are in fashion, you are very quickly out of fashion.”

“There is a fine line between commercial success and keeping exclusivity,” says Christina Zeller, artistic director for Delvaux.

Proportions and witty nuances bring a classic bag into the here and now. Take, for instance, the Ceci n’est pas un Delvaux handbag from the Les Humeurs de Brillant collection. Boxy and structured with a simple D-buckle closure, it’s the lady-like bag your elegant grandmother might have carried in her youth. Yet Zeller’s update included graffiti-ing the words “ceci n’est pas un Delvaux” in neat white cursive sewn across the fine black leather. First designed by an architect in 1958 for the Brussels World’s Fair, the Brillant is one of Delvaux’s most distinctive, classic styles, composed of 64 pieces. “The construction is complex and yet to look at, it is so simple,” she says. By refreshing as opposed to producing new designs each season, the bags maintain their quality. “Modernizing doesn’t mean making things trendy,” notes Zeller. “My challenge is not to destroy Delvaux’s past, but to create a classic product that can seduce both young and old.”

This season, the house springs into a cheery mood by adding a rainbow of colours to its Brillant bags. The Brillant MM, Box Calf: Ivory – Handle Ribbon, Sporty Stripes: Rainbow has, as the name implies, a rainbow ribbon leather handle and is a playful take on the timeless style. The Brillant MM, Magic: Ivory & Rainbow is a leather-structured number and opens to reveal an interior of accordion pockets in an array of colours—lilac, nude, and citron.

“Excellence, unconventional, timelessness”—three words that Zeller uses to encapsulate Delvaux, the oldest fine leather luxury goods house in the world.

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March 15, 2017