We sat down at my tiny table in a huge hall in Paris. “I haven’t been feeling very well lately,” my Japanese customer told me amidst thousands of people roaming the fashion trade show. She just came from Milan, where she also visited shows—places where most conversations consist of no more than how are you? and great!
“So much is going on in the world,” she continued. In Italy, refugees landed on the shores while luxury shows were being held. In her home country, the government wanted to take part in military action for the first time since World War II. It makes you want to skip the superficial chit-chat and look beyond the borders of the fashion world. We are both quiet, thoughtful people working in a loud world. Endless self-indulgence seems to be the norm here. A norm that doesn’t fit everybody.
Fourteen years ago, I started my company. Not because I wanted to work in the fashion industry, but because I wanted to design. It soon turned out my ideas worked really well in leather, including bags. And so I started, without knowing much about the fashion world. It took me quite a while to realize I could leave out a few obvious activities. I mean things that had seemed to be set in stone but did not quite fit my character: PR, trends, endless growth, outsourcing, and, above all, ceaseless sales pitches. They had all seemed so obvious when people told me this was the way to go. But after fourteen years, I know it’s very possible to do things a little differently.
For me, it’s all about making elaborate designs, resulting in good products lasting a lifetime. The work I make is very personal, and I’m deeply connected to the products in the sense that I personally create them with my own hands from beginning to end. Through the years, I have found customers who appreciate this approach and value the details I so tenaciously concentrate on.
While I’m at a trade show, I calmly wait for the customers to visit me. Many of them have been doing so for years. They appreciate the way I work, and I find it a great pleasure to work with them. None of them expect me to give a sales pitch. Rather, they just look for themselves, and we talk after that. Often, we only talk about the work—that’s why we get together after all.
But this time, my Japanese customer and I talked about what’s going on in the world. Not because our work isn’t important to us, but because we are human beings in the world—not isolated from it. And perhaps it’s exactly because we feel so involved that we choose to work the way we do. We won’t single-handedly tackle the global problems, but they determine our views. And that’s what I have to offer: my perspective on the world. A world of real contact, thorough designs, and robust products.
It was a precious moment we had—a real conversation in the middle of a noisy trade show. At the end of the conversation, I gave her the information on my collection. No need to explain anything, really—my designs can tell their own stories. And no need for on-the-spot decisions either. She carefully tucked the papers away to give herself time to think it all through.
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