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Brand To Know: A French Heritage Luggage Maker

By Kames Narayanan

 
Moynat.
 

Almost every season, alongside their ready-to-wear narratives, designers often initiate newly conceived carryalls on the runways. Whether new additions to their existing repertoire, reiterations of an icon or launching the never-before-seen, these introductions often add up to one agenda: rising up the ranks as the season’s most coveted. One French accessory maison, however, is governed by a conscious decision to sit out the race towards the “It” bag status. 

The heritage trunk-maker Moynat recalls a history that traces back to 1849. In its formative years, the brand’s early luggage innovations catapulted the brand to the upper echelons of the luggage industry. In 1854, Moynat created the first waterproof casing for its luggage and was later credited for introducing the first overnight bag for automobiles. The brand was revolutionary and its name widely revered. However, the glory of its earlier days phased out into a lull in the 1970s, eventually forcing its doors shut. 

In 2011, the leather goods artisan was given a new lease on life when it was taken under the wings of luxury conglomerate LVMH. Now, under the creative direction of Ramesh Nair (who had previously cut his teeth assisting Martin Margiela and Jean-Paul Gaultier), the brand has gradually reestablished its standing in the burgeoning accessories industry on its own terms. 

Nair began his work on a clean slate. 

“It started with a whole bunch of thoughts and the challenging part at that point of time was that there was no sounding board. Normally, when you have a sounding board, you can go back and forth and say this works but that doesn’t. That was lacking in the process. Nobody had an idea of what Moynat was,” says Nair, who was in Singapore for the grand opening of Moynat’s first Southeast Asian boutique. 

When Moynat was reintroduced in 2011, an air of mystery shrouded the brand. Few were familiar with the name, much less its designs. What many would consider debilitating called out as a unique selling point to Nair.

Moynat
 

“Everybody wants to be the first to see or own something. There is a sense of mystery about it, a French brand with a heritage. Gradually, one then slowly starts seeing the brand for what it is,” he says. 

Since taking over the helm, Nair has kept to his own method of work. At the French maison, collections do not adhere to the seasons, production numbers are kept small and a thoroughly thought through restraint is implied on expansion. 

“Its unsocial, that’s what we specialise in. It’s the way you are. You have some loud people and you have others, not so loud people. There are some brands that are about flowers but I am not about flowers,” says Nair about Moynat’s restrained, quiet approach to luxury. 

He instead prefers to let the house’s impeccable leather craftsmanship and thoughtful design speak for themselves. Diving into the brand’s heritage by actively scouring for archival Moynat pieces and studying what remains of a legacy, Nair has reconciled Moynat’s iconic designs with contemporary touches. The iconic shape of a trunk is referenced as the starting point for a top handle bag, the stitches from another are translated into accents for a desirable everyday carryall. 

“A lot of them also come from shapes. The Pauline bag was conceived from a shape. The limousine suitcases are inspired by a shape. The question of abstraction is how to make a product where you can translate to now rather than just taking something which has already existed and trying desperately to make something out of it,” he explains. 

The Moynat that people have been reintroduced to is very much steeped in organic processes but in the near future lie exciting possibilities. 

“I have a huge list. The first one has a lot to do with space. We don’t have enough space. We then have to add more vertical players into our team to pull all our horses together. When that fits into place, we will think about other areas. Everybody has to expand. We could become a monster that grows fast,” he teases on the expansion of the brand and his interest in areas beyond handbags and leather accessories. 

“The thing about a machine is that its wheels should never get locked in — it should always be smooth sailing. In about 10 years, we might not have bags. What are we going to do then?”