Peau de Chagrin's Slow Savoir Faire - Fashion Unfiltered

Mesh Chhibber discusses why sustainable fashion is the biggest luxury of all


STYLE  -  MAY 03

Much as ideas of what is fashionable change, so do notions of luxury. While the former is an evolution in societal values and taste, the latter has become a mutation of the monetary value we place on brand names. It’s a way of thinking that Mesh Chhibber—who has decades of experience doing PR for the likes of John Galliano and Stella McCartney—was hoping to change when he founded his label Peau de Chagrin in 2015.

“I just felt that so many brands were charging people an extortionate amount of money for objects that looked beautiful, were badly made, and that wouldn’t last a decade—quite possibly wouldn’t even last three years,” he explained of why he started the brand. “This has been passed off as luxury, and it didn’t make any sense to me. I just don’t understand how people can charge thousands of dollars, or euros, or pounds, for something that won’t even last. At that price, things should be handed down like heirlooms.”

Peau de Chagrin bags (which are designed by creative director Sofie Guerrero) are made entirely in France and Switzerland by skilled craftspeople with a limited output. At first, one might balk at the $4,500 price tag, but when one compares them to pricier heritage labels that pump out thousands at a time in factories, it looks like a steal. It is not so much redefining luxury as it is sticking to a very precise definition of luxury production—one that can hopefully also be ethical.

“Thirty years ago, if you wanted to ignore the environment, you could. But today, we have dwindling resources. We know that we’re impacting on the planet. So the least you can do if you’re actually using the planet’s resources is to do it in a sustainable way,” he said. “You can’t put the onus on consumers. You have to put the onus on people who are actually making things.”

Luckily, things do appear to be changing. There has been a rise in smaller, more ethically minded labels (PDC included). Major organizations such as the CFDA have backed sustainable design initiatives, and Chhibber is quick to point out that even major brands such as those within the Kering group are working to introduce sustainable practices. “[If] a large company like that is doing it, then hopefully that means things are changing. And it possibly means that consumers actually care.”

Of course, the sustainable luxury model is a slow one, boldly so in an age where shoppers can make their purchases online, and have them delivered in the same day. Chhibber’s choice to opt for a vegetable leather dyeing process rather than chrome tanning, for example, means that it could take up to a year to get the materials needed for a bag. But the results are worth it.

“I think there’s a customer that wants something that’s beautifully made, and doesn’t just look beautiful. I think people are willing to wait,” he said, explaining how customers could wait up to three months for a PDC bag. “The idea of instant gratification is pretty damaging, in my view.”