July 10 2015
If anyone knows understated chic, it’s les femmes francaises. And French handbag designer Anne Grand-Clément certainly lives up to her homeland’s reputation. But Grand-Clément isn’t just your quintessential quiet luxury kind-of-gal — she’s socially conscious too. Collaborating with Indian artisans, the former Tod’s designer seeks not only to create exquisite pouches, but to preserve the art of hand embroidery as well. We asked Anne Grand-Clément if we could step into her world for a minute and found, to no one’s surprise, that from this particular French femme, we could learn a thing or two.
What is your brand all about? Talk to us about your values and aesthetic.
I believe in the beauty of simplicity and timeless quality. Made entirely by hand, each of my pouches reflects the incredibly skilled labor of one embroiderer whose singular skill has been passed down for generations. Using a traditional Beauvais stitch, the embroiderer sits bent on the loom, like in meditation, for up to 30 hours to finish one pouch. The little hook jumps from stitch to stitch and the beauty of the design slowly appears under his hand.
Embroidery is a marvellous craft. The beauty of “fait main” creates tiny accidents, scarcely discernible to the layman, that only elevate the beauty of the pouch, making it one of a kind.
Instead of my name, I could also have called my brand “SLOW”, since I call for a different way of consuming and producing: buying less things, with more concern and respect for those who makes them.
You've worked for big fashion houses like Tod's as well as designed your own handbag line (Ursule Beaugeste) prior to this one. Talk to us about the challenges of both career choices and why you ultimately decided to go back to working for yourself.
Ursule Beaugeste was a humble and poetic adventure; the result of my desire to design bohemian chic bags with a devoted cult following. When famous companies called me to design for them, it was like playing in the big leagues. The high quality of manufacturing and the large exposure was very stimulating. I really enjoyed both experiences.
During the last decade, digital marketing has accelerated the tempo of fashion to an all-time craziness. I do not agree with the endless demand for novelty, and thought it was time to slow down and follow more respectful values. That’s why I decided to focus on my passion for handmade design. In 2012 I began collaborating with indian artisans in an effort to preserve their craft as well as to redefine simple sophistication.
Who is Anne Grand-Clement and which actress would play her in a movie?
I am a French, white-haired mother, designer and traveler.
If somebody is crazy enough to make a film about me, please propose the role to the brilliant Cate Blanchett.
Your embroidered pouches are handmade in India. Why India? How did this design collaboration come to be?
In India, handwork is still very much alive. But for how long ? It struck me as urgent to sustain this heritage before technology and consumerism makes it vanish.
Talk to us about your concept of "precious basics". What does it mean?
It is the mix of simplicity and rarity. Timeless essentials embellished for an everyday luxury.
Which designers (past or present) are you influenced by?
Wiener Werkstätte’s designers, Coco Chanel, Sonia Delaunay, Line Vautrin, Miuccia Prada and Dries Van Noten.
Which of your pouches do you carry yourself and what would we find inside?
I have many that I love to carry. My favorite is PLAIN in navy or iron. It’s just perfect for carrying my essentials: money, passport, keys, glasses, iPhone, mirror, lipstick, and Kaweco pen.
If I need to carry more, I simply drop it in my new tote bag called IDEAL (as it is light and has the perfect dimensions and inside pockets).
Name one thing your customers would be surprised to learn about your designs.
After embroidering, another very important step of the process is called “beating”. The metallic thread is beaten by the embroiderer between a wood hammer and a wood anvil in order to flatten the stiches and make them shine. If the beating is not done correctly, the piece will be rejected. Not everyone is able to do it. I judge the quality of the beating by the music it makes!
Name one item you'd rescue if your house were on fire.
Two small-beaded indian birds with coral beaks, and a Walter Boss ashtray set of nesting hedgehogs. They belonged respectively to my mother and father who passed away. They are more than precious reminders of a happy childhood.
What's next for your brand?
Shop the Anne Grand-Clément collection at Roztayger HERE.