Design & Decoration S03 ep1 : Christian Salez Delvaux, Delvaux Leathergoods, [Brussels]
Interview with Christian Salez Delvaux
Founded in 1829 in Brussels, Delvaux is the oldest fine leather luxury goods company in the world. Delvaux has remained a family-owned company, precisely because it wants to protect such values as ethics, quality, exclusivity and elegance, and to be able to deliver an authentic luxury experience to its customers, based on their expectations. Delvaux is first and foremost about the product: handmade following the oldest craft traditions, using the finest leathers, created by renowned designers in limited editions to guarantee exclusivity. Products made with taste and perfection, to last generations.
Delvaux is the oldest leather house in the world, has been created even before that Belgium
as a country was created, a year before that.
My work here has not just been to write the history of Delvaux, it’s really been to set the
history in its context, there is a great deal in the book that’s not going to be present in the
exhibition. I presented sections on the history of travel in the era that Delvaux was operated
was on the history of the handbag, I found some delightful old photographs, I found some
really surprising stories and background for the Delvaux family who came from families of
saddle makers, carriage builders, wheel rights, couturiers.
We didn’t want just to follow trends, we want to create, we don’t want to have the artificial
side of the fashion, we are the values of sustainability and durability, we’re probably already
part of the house before that words were invented.
Historians say that Belgium was just a compromise between the French and the English to
agree about how it should move forward and that’s how Belgium in fact, which is
multicultural in dimension has been created and probably also the surrealism of this country.
Look outside, look at the weather so we need other emotions than just sun and beaches and
that’s something that is very typical Belgium.
It started with the family Delvaux, and it’s at that time leather houses were completely
functional approaches, it was for the trains, it was for the horses, it was and it last until the
beginning of the 20th Century and in the 1930’s a young engineer who made fortune in the
African colonies came back to Belgium and he wanted to buy a company, he was extremely
seduced by this little atelier and shop Delvaux employing 30 people or something like that,
supplier of the Royal Court so seduced also by that. He didn’t know anything about
leatherworks, about bags and he decided to buy the company at that time and since the
1930’s it’s still in hands of one family who is the Schweninger family.
I don’t know a lot of companies where you can do the design, the creation, the
manufacturing, to have your own shops to develop it by your own, so we have the whole
Ten years, a decade I have been working in the advertising business, educating change
processes and change management and then I was already independent member of the Board
of Directors of Delvaux, and Francois Schweninger the owner wanted to have a buddy to
help him to develop this company towards a future and then that how things went.
Wife of Hans Schweninger who bought Delvaux was CEO for more than 30 years, Francois
succeeded her in the early 90’s. This brother and sister are not actively in the company but
are also shareholders and very much involved in the management of the company so it’s a
really family affair.
We are now manufacturing between 15 and 20 thousand bags and we will have a capacity
that lets say should be able for 30,000 bags but not more, which is still really … second
thing is that we really want to go further in terms of innovation, in terms of some the
materials and the way of thinking of the toward mobility.
And the ambition is not in terms of quantity, it’s in terms of quality. And probably we should
be compared more to some watchmakers than towards the other luxury or fashion houses and
for the … you should know that in the early 70’s Louis Vitton was smaller than Delvaux.
Leather goods and travelling is something that cannot match any more because in terms of
lightness in terms of functionality in terms of so we are focussed on that how we could
innovate to combine elegancy and functionality.
For us elegance is being discreet, we don’t want to show off with logos, we always have
been working with designers of … and we have been working with … now our artistic
director is … so we try to have this kind of timeless elegance.
In terms of some pure design the connoisseur, the small niche of people who are initiated to
the brand they recognise when it is a Delvaux brand.
Belgium is a country where people obviously the way of living is quite high but we are not a
luxury market, we always forget that, we are not a luxury market, you cannot compare it to
Paris, to London, to New York, where princesses are coming where sheiks are coming where
people are buying for one million Euro in half a day when that happens and occurs in
Brussels it’s in all the newspapers and it happens every month, every two weeks in Paris.
Also let’s be fair about that the market who is buying luxury goods within Paris are not the
French or the Parisians, it’s everybody, it’s one of the biggest tourist places in the world and
they are not only buying the products, they’re also buying a little bit of the magic of Paris.
It starts with the choice of the leathers and we are only two maximum, sometimes three
manufacturers in the world buying this type of such expensive leathers, it’s mainly Le
Tanner and we have a selection of six, seven ateliers where we buy that, we meet a lot of
times … there and but one of the reasons that we can afford it and that we can still be a little
bit competitive in terms of pricing regardless this big investment to the leather, for 80% is
that we own or a distribution chain and so we don’t have to give money to intermediaries or
to distributors or to other shops, it’s part of our company so that means that probably that we
are the leather house with the bags in which there is in terms of the price most the biggest
percentage of leather and the biggest percentage of handmanscraftship.
Also the metallic accessories we need to manufacture the bag, we create and design
everything in house and then sometimes we manufacture for instance the jewellery line we
manufacture by our own or we work in accordance with some specific ateliers we have an
atelier in Brussels we have an atelier in France, in both ateliers nearly 60 people are
Two to three persons are working two days for one bag here in our atelier which is
completely against every logic of industrial thinking and process.
We were the inventors of the collections in the leather goods, we invented that in the early
1930’s with the autumn winter and spring summer collection.
The people who are manufacturing the bags they are also putting their signature in that so
it’s … they got the signature so you know exactly who has been doing that and so we have a
lot of people who are asking tailor made bag and one of the biggest owners of restaurants of
mussels in Belgium ask us to develop for his wife a bag in the form of a mussel and that’s
something that we really need to think about that, but at the same time when we are talking
about the elegance and the tradition so that was one of the items that sometimes we say
okay, the client is keen but there are some limits to his kingdom.
Years and years ago there was a contact with a Chinese manufacturer and he wanted to
develop a very quick, it was for a promotional line that he wanted to do and we said on the
bags on the prototypes that we sent to China, we sent just with a marker we said not this one
… should know and we received all the samples and everything there was not this one, just
written on that and at that time we know that we recognise that we never should understand
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Christaian Sales Delvaux, Delvaux Leathergoods, Brussels