Slow Practice: Alternative Values

 ‘Luxpreneurs: Handmade is the new chic’ (from l-r: Marion Hume (chair), Mark Tallowin, Mesh Chhebber, Sophie Habsburg, Cath and Jeremy Brown, Kitty Bruce-Gardyne). Carré Alchimique No.1 in the background.

‘Luxpreneurs: Handmade is the new chic’ (from l-r: Marion Hume (chair), Mark Tallowin, Mesh Chhebber, Sophie Habsburg, Cath and Jeremy Brown, Kitty Bruce-Gardyne). Carré Alchimique No.1 in the background.

Peau de chagrin co-founder Mesh Chhibber speaks at Luxury Law Summit 2017

Last week, the two worlds of legal advisors and luxury brand designers came together, descending upon the Ham Yard hotel in central London for the annual Luxury Law Summit. Bringing both the work of general counsels operating in the luxury sector, along with the CEO’s, creatives and representatives of high-end fashion, travel and digital media to the agenda, the day foregrounded the current political and cultural shifts companies are facing within the industry.

Fashion journalist Marion Hume chaired an afternoon panel of small design companies, including Peau de Chagrin’s Mesh Chhibber. The discussion – ‘Luxpreneurs: Handmade chic is the new luxury’ also had input from designer Mark Tallowin, Feldspar founding partners Jeremy & Cath Brown, designer Sophie Habsburg and Kitty Bruce-Gardyne of Kitty Mackenzie Scottish Tweed and Cashmere.

When questioned about the long wait time for a handbag to be produced, Chhibber expressed the rising appreciation for true craft, and how customer’s do not mind the longer waiting times if they know they are receiving a lifelong precious object at the end of it. Conscientiously creating such an item designed by master craftsmen, in limited editions, is a bold alternative to the brands and companies that “…sacrifice quality for volume.”

“A handbag should be like an heirloom, something that is handed down over generations and not something that will break within 3 years”, Chhibber said. “I know that there are customers who think that the big luxury brands don’t cater for them anymore”, given the expense and short duration of the product due to cheaper manufacturing methods. 

Purchasing an objet by Peau de Chagrin is an investment, and the beginning of a special rapport, as the customer is given exclusive insight to the working processes of the European artisans and regular updates from the company. This notion of transparency and inclusivity with the customer is something Mark Tallowin echoed during the discussion, whereby each hand-stitched bag contains a small unique identifying message, sewn into the lining and never to be seen, only privately acknowledged between the designer and owner.

The personal experience of learning about the item’s history and process is just as important, as emphasised by Sophie Habsburg discussing the benefits of a pop-up shop or boutique. “Many top boutiques are closing. But with a pop-up event or temporary location, you’re bringing the products to the community, rather than they coming to you, so it’s really important that you are present during the pop-up period, to talk with people”.

Other benefits of slower, smaller design companies raised during the panel discussion were the ability to up-sticks and move to more rural parts of the country, as is the case with Feldspar, a young ceramics studio who have already been picked up by the V&A. Also key is the assured provenance of your product, as mentioned by Mackenzie, being much harder, (thus less lucrative) to imitate by other companies, given the technicality and visible care laboured into the product.

Amidst the uncertainty of new trade deals and regulations within the UK, plus the growing geopolitical relations and concerns, the luxury sector faces a chasm of legal unknowns in the imminent years ahead. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, how do small independent designers continue to connect with customers, articulating their values and material integrity on digital platforms? Events like the Luxury Law Summit prove the need to confront these questions, whilst presentations during the rest of the day evidenced signs of resistance against over-consumption and change toward informed customer-brand alliances.