When it comes to leather goods, Parisians have always done it best. With a rich heritage of trunk-making dating back to the 19th century, the City of Light has served as the birthplace of some the top luxury leather brands that are still going strong today, and perhaps no name epitomizes this rich tradition more than Moreau.
First established in 1882 as a luggage maker, Moreau was brought back to life in 2011 when artistic director Fedor Georges Savchenko reimagined it as a collection of sumptuous handbags suitable for modern living. With details like hand-sewn seams and buffed, antiqued leather, the line immediately caught the eye of Barneys’ buyers after a chance encounter brought the bags to their attention four years ago. “It happened through a rather unorthodox referral,” Barneys CEO Daniella Vitale told T Magazine upon the collection’s launch. “Narciso Rodriguez was in Paris on holiday and walked past a tiny shop on Rue de Miromesnil. He sent me an email telling me that I should take a look at it next time we were in Paris.” Barneys then had the privilege of bringing the brand stateside for the first time, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Window recently chatted with Ukrainian-born Savchenko about his vision for the storied maison, his inspiration for keeping the historical line moving forward, and what makes Moreau so unique. Read on for his insight, then head to Barneys to check out the collection for yourself.
The Window: We were so thrilled to get to introduce Moreau to U.S. clients four years ago. Can you tell us a bit about that partnership?
Fedor Georges Savchenko: It was a big opportunity for us to launch with Barneys—people trust the brand and its ability to choose the best quality, newest products from around the world. Since that initial launch, it’s been a step-by-step growth. The Barneys buyers have had great insight about the U.S. market, like what sizes and colors people would most respond to.
Can you share with us more about how you’ve developed the collection since relaunching it?
The purpose of our bags is to be useful every day and to be comfortable. We spend a lot of time working on the durability and the lightness of the bags, which are both important for us since they’re important to our clients. It’s big for us to have this very special leather, which is so thin but still incredibly durable. And the bags are especially lightweight considering they’re double-faced, with leather on both the inside and the outside.
Prior to designing for Moreau, you worked with another Barneys favorite brand, Goyard. How are you able to take these unique heritage brands and meld their rich history with your own aesthetic and a fresh sensibility?
The first thing that I focus on is one of the most basic: the quality of the product. Moreau uses only the highest quality materials. We have an exclusive technique to screen print on the calfskin leather, and we embrace our iconic print inspired by the natural pattern of woven wicker suitcases (as seen above), which comes directly from Moreau’s archives. To keep they styles contemporary, we have a very simple, useful shape. The proportions are perfect for everyday use. Aesthetics should be practical—this is our philosophy.
Practicality and durability seem to be two big touch points for the brand.
When you use and carry a bag all day, potentially for several years, it almost becomes a friend. It should useful, and you shouldn’t have to worry about any aspect of it. We use time-tested techniques to replicate the same handles that were used on the trunks Moreau was making in the 19th century. They’re all hand-stitched and will last forever. Sometimes, after I’ve been carrying the same bag for years, I feel bad getting a new one because the old one is still in such great shape!
With those roots in travel trunks, how do you integrate that feeling into the way people live today and the way they tote their stuff around?
We’re actually going back to those roots. This year, we’re reintroducing luggage to the collection, creating trunks and suitcases with the same high-quality, hand-stitched leather that we use in the bags. It will be in updated shapes, be very lightweight, and have modern details like a place for your laptop. So it’s really a full-circle moment for Moreau.
On a more personal note, I know you studied fashion both in Kiev and in Paris. How did you transition into focusing on bags and embracing Moreau’s French heritage?
Yes, I initially took a more general approach to design and studied fashion. I started with haute couture, as well as prêt-à-porter, accessories, shoes, bags, all of it. But when I first set foot in the atelier and saw how a bag can be birthed from nothing, it was like magic. I fell in love with the French tradition of craftsmanship and the people who have 30 or 40 years of experience in leather goods. That’s what inspired me to want to produce all of Moreau’s goods in France. We’d like to preserve this craftsmanship in France by continuing to use the same techniques and processes that were used 100 years ago. We work with tanneries that have been using the same techniques since the 16th century, and that’s the kind of French heritage we want to embrace.
To that point, the bags you create aren’t trendy or season-specific. How do you continue to keep things feeling fresh and moving forward while remaining timeless?
We think about the purpose of the bags and the lifestyles of our clients. One of our newest styles developed out of a special request for a yoga bag—something to carry a yoga mat in. It great to connect very old, traditional techniques with something like that that feels very now. I love that marriage of the traditional with the contemporary.