Quality, excellence, perfection. Since its origins in 1946, Longchamp has pursued these goals and without fail, each of their creations follows these guiding principles. Here, RLI sits down with company CEO Jean Cassegrain to discuss the past 12 months and highlight what the next 12 months has in store.
Last year, Longchamp celebrated 70 years in business. 1948 marked the year Jean Cassegrain imparted his unique vision of French elegance and rewrote the rules of modern luxury under the Longchamp brand. A leather pipe maker channeling his craftsmanship into travel accessories, handbags and lifestyle fashion, the Longchamp brand now extends across the globe.
Today, the House is in the hands of the third generation of Cassegrain: his eldest son, Jean is the CEO, his daughter, Sophie Delafontaine, the Creative Director, and his younger son, Olivier, leads the brand’s development of American boutiques. The very first Longchamp store was located in the heart of Paris in the second arrondissement, now the company directly operates over 300 stores around the world, and the brand is available in more than 80 countries.
“2018 was a busy year, we announced Kendall Jenner as our new brand ambassador, we held our first show at New York Fashion Week and we celebrated Longchamp’s 70th anniversary at the Opera Garnier in Paris,” explains company CEO Jean Cassegrain. “These events supported our growth but also contributed to changing the perception of our brand from leather goods specialists to a global lifestyle brand.” In May last year the company opened its flagship store on 5th Avenue in New York. The 370sq m, two-storey boutique is its largest outpost in the US, offering women’s handbags, ready-to-wear, shoes, leather accessories, men’s collections and all its luggage pieces.
“The brand is already established in most major markets in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas. We are now focusing on fine-tuning our network, improving our locations where they need to be. The most important opening this year will be a new flagship in Ginza, Tokyo,” says Cassegrain. This year, Longchamp continued to preview its latest collections at New York Fashion Week with its second show last month and they will soon be revealing its second campaign with Kendall Jenner as well as launching a new line of bags.
Even with a strong and recognisable brand such as Longchamp, every season is a new challenge and every season the company needs to come up with new and exciting ideas and they believe it is key to maintain a strong flow of new products to keep the interest and attention of its customers. “We have strong French and Parisian roots, but at the same time we have always been international and cosmopolitan,” explains Cassegrain. “Our customers worldwide are not coming to us for a culturally neutral product; on the contrary, they like us because of our Frenchness. The Parisian woman is and will remain our inspiration.”
Longchamp has embraced the importance of social media from the very beginning, and back in 2009 it was the first European brand on WeChat. Today they have in place an omni-channel strategy that allows them to engage with its consumers across countries and across platforms such as Instagram, KakaoTalk, Weibo and Facebook.
Cassegrain believes that there is an authenticity to the brand that the customers can perceive in a world where everything is so artificial and marketed. This, along with the fact that Longchamp is an independent family business with strong roots, is why customers are loyal and why the brand stands out from the rest of the market. So what does Cassegrain consider to be the key drivers behind the brand’s success to date? “We are a product-brand more than a marketing brand. Our success is based on our products, their quality of course but also the fact that our offer is frequently renewed and always feels fresh and relevant,” he says.
“We have strong French and Parisian roots, but at the same time we have always been international and cosmopolitan”
Longchamp is a brand that is always in motion, accompanying men and women who are also always in motion. The brand reinterprets contemporary luxury with its point of view, adding style to its unique French heritage. So what lies ahead and what does Cassegrain perceive to be the greatest challenge facing the company in the coming months? “Deciding to preview our collections at New York Fashion Week presents a new challenge for us each year. We are focused on affirming our position in the fashion world and establishing our successes in new categories, such as ready-to-wear, shoes and eyewear,” Cassegrain concludes.