The Longchamp Le Pliage gets a bad rap for being “basic,” a term ascribed to the preferences of women who like to play it safe. In that case, almost every woman reading this could be described as “basic” because have you tried toting this bag around? It’s amazing. It’s rain-proof, scratch-proof, and carry five heavy bottles of champagne if you need it to, all while being light, packable, and low-maintenance.
Now, what seems to be the entire universe’s go-to travel-slash-work-slash-shopping buddy has officially landed on Philippine shores, thanks to the opening of Longchamp’s first exclusive stand-alone boutique in the country. That’s right, you heard me: you can now get first dibs at the Longchamp Le Pliage in all its colorful, leathery, and utilitarian glory, along with the rest of the complete seasonal collection for women’s handbags, without having to make pabili any longer. (@TitasofManila, rejoice!)
At the boutique’s opening yesterday, we got to steal a few minutes with Longchamp General Manager for Asia and Pacific François-Xavier Severin to know more about the Pliage’s enduring popularity, the new collection, plus his thoughts on Filipina fashion.
Longchamp has long been a mainstay in the Philippine market, what made you decide to open a stand-alone boutique just now?
If we could have done it earlier, we would have done it. We were waiting for the right opportunity and right location availability—which definitely wasn’t easy. We actually like this (location) because as we can see, it’s really in the main traffic flow. The country has a very nice economy, which was also very important for us. We think that the Philippine people really have an appetite for the industry; this is the right opportunity we’ve been waiting for, and it’s been great.
The Longchamp flagship store in Hong Kong has the brand’s complete line, including the clothes and shoes. When do you think all that will arrive in the Philippines?
It’s a question that many people have been asking us for the past two days. We have a bit of a size issue—we could have sold well, but we would have needed a bigger space. The store is only 60 square meters and we have to make some choices. So we decided that with this space, we would only propose the woman’s handbags and accessories, but at least most of those collections.
Personally, I’m very confident about introducing the ready-to-wear collection. We just opened up the store, so we want to be right with the customer and understand whether they are familiar with the ready-to-wear, if it is something that will be interesting to them in the future. I hope in one, or even in a few years, we can come back for the opening of a new store, bigger with all the new products in all categories. We can see that the Filipino people really like to dress, they really like to do make-up, they really like the trendy and luxury accessories, so there is no reason why the ready-to-wear will not be accepted here.
Given the Pliage’s popularity, what are you doing to fight the counterfeit industry that has risen because of it?
We’re actually doing a lot of things because of course we have a lot of counterfeit products. In a way, it comes because of the popularity, so we can also see it in a positive way, to see that we are okay. But it is a huge business; (counterfeit) is a huge market, and we have a department that is totally dedicated to (monitoring piracy). I can tell you they are busy 8 o’clock in the morning to very late everyday!
The Pliage is undoubtedly one of your most popular styles. It’s one of those designs that is so ridiculous because everyone has one. What is its enduring appeal that makes people continue to buy it?
The Pliage nylon is a phenomenal success as we have sold an estimation of more than 20 million pieces since its launch. It is still a very, very popular item. So why do people still buy it? Every season we propose new seasonal and unique colors, which remain in the spirit and the theme of the collection. We still also sell classic common-known colors as well.
But what is interesting is that we launched the Pliage Cuir last year, which is what you have there and is what the models are wearing. The Pliage leather is quite popular—it is going by very fast. You have people who were customers for the Pliage nylon switching to the Pliage leather. I think it is a different bag, but why is it a very nice evolution? The Pliage leather comes with a strap that you can carry cross-body, which is a bit more of a cooler profile.
Last but not least, we have the new Pliage heritage. It is much more structured, modern, fashionable. It has the details and shape of the Pliage nylon, but in a very rigid light.
How many Pliage bags do you produce in a day?
Well, it takes less than 15 minutes (to assemble one Pliage). We still own the largest leather manufacturer in France and we openly invite people to see the way we manufacture our product. They like very much to go see the Pliage nylon because we have to produce it very fast, making sure that the quality is always there and that every single bag is perfect. So one of these days, you could come over and see what’s (happens) behind, and you will see that it takes a lot of a experience and expertise.
Can you tell us a little bit about the bag’s history?
Philippe Cassegrain, a second generation member of Longchamp’s founding family, designed the bag. I would say he was a very practical person—practical but chic—and he was traveling a lot. And always in his mind was to find a way to provide a chic, large, practical, and very functional bag.
Inspired by the Japanese origami, (the bag) is all about the foldable concept. The only way to keep it very light and sophisticated was to mix very nice leather—the Russian leather we use for the flap—and the nylon, which is very easy, solid, resistant, but also still light and foldable. That was 20 years ago, and it has since become a very fast and very wide success.
The good thing about the bag is that it’s really accepted by a very wide diversity of women: from schoolgirl to the very high-end luxury woman. We have many customers from Chanel and Hermes; they are also very pleased with our Longchamp bag. As one could say, “You can find in an airline, in an economy class, business class, and in first class,” which is very true—we’ve been here for 20 years, and see how successful the Pliage still is.
Do you also use the Pliage when you travel as well?
I have the Pliage leather in dark brown.
Men’s handbags are a growing category. Why didn’t you introduce a few men’s handbags as well?
Again, it’s really because of the space issue. We do have the full men’s bags travel line but we do need space, and we just don’t want to have them lost in a women’s environment. We had to make some compromise.
As I said, the market is ready and the customers are here, there is no doubt about it. It’s more of a matter of having the right place.
Longchamp. G/F Greenbelt 5, Legazpi Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City
Photo by Jash Manuel Interview by Cai Subijano and Tatin Yang