Longchamp is one of those names that have been engraved into the public’s fashion consciousness. Similar to Chanel and Louis Vuitton, just by hearing the name “Longchamp” makes one think of the luxury and sophistication, two things the brand is founded on. The label is now everywhere, from the high-end luxury shopping areas down to the streetwear where their pieces have been counterfeited. Although it’s illegal, being counterfeited has become a sort of badge-of-honor, connoting that a brand has become so big that it’s being copied. Such is the prestige of the brand that they’ve become inescapable, and if one might not have heard of the name, they’ll certainly know its products.
How the brand came to be
Founded by Jean Cassegrain, the company started as a tobacco business owned by his father. In 1948, after the Second World War, Cassegrain’s leather-covered pipes became a hit among soldiers, and soon, prominent male figures like Elvis Presley. He soon established the brand as “Longchamp”, named after the Parisian Longchamp Racecourse. This is also the reason why the company logo is that of a jockey and his horse. By the 1950’s, the company expanded into leather goods, selling passport covers, wallets, gloves, and bags for men. Soon, the fashion world was taking notice of the new leather goods brand as it slowly expands.
In 1971, the label branched out into women’s bags, introducing their first handbag for ladies. Around that time, women were becoming a force to reckon with in the workforce, so a lot of them needed to something to carry their items. As a response, Longchamp released a series of nylon, the first to use the material, and leather bags so that women won’t have to carry heavy suitcases around. With their attention to design and functionality, their women’s bags quickly became a hit. From that point on, several women, now from around the world, have bought and continue to buy Longchamp bags.
As with any other luxury goods label, Longchamp has a few signatures on their roster that have catapulted them to mainstream success. One of the first was the X-tra bag, released in the 1970’s. It was created by Philippe Cassegrain, the company founder’s son and its current president. The bag features a wide silhouette made out of strong nylon with leather straps and a leather flap to keep everything in place. More than the beauty of its design, its practicality was embraced by women, especially those working. In 1993, the X-tra was redesigned to create Le Pilage, a slightly more feminine variation. With its angular sides and sleeker shape, the bag is used more so for fashion than work when compared to X-tra.
Collaborations and Known Clientele
Longchamp started what is now a common practice among today’s most beloved fashion brands—collaborating with artists. Their first was with French-Russian artist Serge Mendjisky, which was all the way back to the 1970’s. He was the first one to make use of patchwork leather for handbags, which were met with both critical acclaim and commercial success. In 2004, the company collaborated with Thomas Heatherwick, an independent designer. He designed the famous Zip bag, a cylindrical purse that had a zipper encircling it. It soon became one of the label’s best-selling items. Other collaborations the company undertook were with independent artist Tracey Emin and fashion designer Jeremy Scott.
More than the exclusively rich, a number of female celebrities have bought a Longchamp bag or two. In fact, actresses Katie Holmes and Amy Adams are notable fans of the Le Pilage bag, having been spotted on the street carrying one at multiple times. British women also love Longchamp, as evidenced by Alexa Chung, a pop culture icon, and Mary Berry, a world-renowned baker and TV host. Supermodel Kate Moss even collaborated with the brand to come up with her own capsule line called “Kate Moss for Longchamp”. She even fronted the collection’s ad campaigns herself. One of their most prestigious clients, however, is Kate Middleton—the Duchess of Cambridge. She’s been seen on Royal events carrying a Longchamp bag.
Today, the whole world has fallen in love with Longchamp. The brand has a presence in over 80 countries, across multiple continents. In the US, Longchamp items have been sold through various prominent retailers since the 1950’s, such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s. They opened their first store there in 1984 on Madison Avenue in New York City. It was then followed by flagship store which opened in 2006, in New York’s SoHo District. In Europe, the brand has stores in Paris, London, Rome, Barcelona, and Munich. Some of them are flagship stores, selling accessories and ready-to-wear items as well.
In Asia, Longchamp opened their first store in China back in 2006. They now have over 50 stores across the country, including ones in Beijing and Shanghai. They also opened a flagship store in Hong Kong in 2011, which is regarded to be the brand’s second largest store after the flagship in SoHo, New York. Accounting for 10% of the company’s global sales, they also branched out into Southeast Asia, opening a total of 22 stores in countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.
When one thinks of a fashionable handbag, Longchamp is certainly one of the names that will come to mind. It’s become one of the most recognizable brand names in the entire world. The label has also become a giant in the fashion, luxury goods, and generally the entire retail industry.