ST Dupont, purveyor of leather goods, pens and lighters, was founded in 1872. Having recently celebrated its 145th anniversary, the brand has proven it can preserve its status as a French heritage house while moving forward with the times. We caught up with CEO Alain Crevet to discuss ST Dupont’s DNA, craftsmanship and innovation
What attracted you to join the company over a decade ago?
The remarkably rich history and the brand’s expertise attracted me to ST Dupont: it felt like a story that was yet untold. I decided to focus on the DNA of the brand as being the malletier (trunk-maker) of the emperors. I wanted to bring the brand back to its roots of creating writing instruments, lighters and leather goods, with a high standard of quality.
I decided to focus the investment of the company in the factory based in Faverges, in the Haute Savoie region of France, where over 80% of all pens, lighters, cufflinks and accessories are hand-produced. These changes paid off and allowed the company to grow and develop.
What makes ST Dupont stand out from other brands in its field?
For over 145 years, the ST Dupont master goldsmiths, silversmiths, lacquerers and trunk-makers have created unique and durable objects that are entirely crafted by hand in France. The most important difference is that our products are 100% handmade in France, in our original workshops, in a small town near the Swiss border.
What is significance of the workshop’s location in Faverges?
ST Dupont’s workshop is located in Faverges, by the French Alps and Lac d’Annecy lake. The pure mountain air, blue skies and clear water were an inspiration to eponymous founder Simon Tissot Dupont and his sons, and still influence the company’s strong progressive environmental focus and ethos of sustainability today.
What are the most popular ST Dupont products?
Le Grand ST Dupont – a new range of lighters featuring both a soft flame and also a torch – as well as the new Picasso collection, which launched this year, have both been extremely popular with our clients. The Atelier collection, which includes writing instruments and leather goods, is without question our brand signature.
Why is craftsmanship such an important principle for ST Dupont?
We have had generations of family members working in the ST Dupont factory in Faverges, which we are very proud of. As a heritage brand that is committed to innovation, we grow and develop with technology but stay true to the 150 steps of creating a lighter; and a real person will always listen out for the famous ‘cling’ sound a ST Dupont lighter makes, as part of quality checks.
Natural lacquer art is a very ancient form of know-how dating back over 3,000 years: ST Dupont applies this natural (and difficult material) on a metal surface as opposed to wood, making us one of the only brands to have mastered this unique skill since the 1930s. The technique was introduced to ST Dupont by mistake: the brand was looking for a maître plaqueur (master plater) but due to a misprint in the advert the brand ended up with a maître laqueur (master lacquerer) from Russia which has had a great impact on what ST Dupont is today. Up to six layers of natural lacquer are applied, entirely only by very skilled hands, to obtain its remarkable shine and depth. The lacquer is also resistant to shocks, scratches and fire. Another special skill is the guilloche technique: with the help of a diamond-cut tool, the metal surface is engraved with various patterns, such as the Diamond Head. For both its lacquering and the guilloche, ST Dupont has been awarded the title of Living Heritage Company by the French government, in recognition for saving and developing ancient techniques.
ST Dupont recently celebrated its 145th anniversary. What does it mean to be a heritage brand in this day and age?
The brand celebrated its 145th anniversary last year, in 2017 – it was a very special year for all of us. Simon Tissot Dupont opened his first workshop 146 years ago at Faverges. Ever since, we have been known for our excellence in leather craftsmanship and the highest quality in leather goods, lighters and pens.
Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie choose the brand as their official supplier of exquisite leather cases, bags and accessories (such as our famous lighters and pens); most of the 19th and 20th-century’s aristocrats and celebrities followed suit. Since then, ST Dupont has expressed its passion for creating exceptional products for exceptional people, from Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe to Queen Elizabeth II.
ST Dupont frequently presents special collections and collaborations. Where does the inspiration for these come from?
We like bringing together different artistic universes that give us technical challenges: the bullet hole in our James Bond lighter illustrated our unique technical prowess, for example. We continue to showcase that great heritage doesn’t systematically mean old-fashioned.
Today, our product offering spans revolutionary collections in collaboration with other brands. For example, we signed a unique partnership with the film Murder on The Orient Express. We have created a beautiful limited-edition collection of writing instruments, lighters and letter openers, that take inspiration from the character Princess Dragomiroff. This has been an extraordinary journey and is a nod to our history of making bespoke travel trunks for royalty and socialites.
The brand recently relaunched the Picasso collection. What’s the story behind this and why did you decide to revive this collection in particular?
In 1962 Pablo Picasso chose three ST Dupont lighters. He engraved a harlequin and a Pierrot figure onto the Chinese lacquer surfaces of two of his favourite ST Dupont lighters as gifts for his son and daughter-in-law. Today, these lighters are part of the personal collection of Mrs Ruiz-Picasso. On the third lighter, which he gave to a friend, he engraved a faun, a recurring motif in Picasso’s work which is often considered to be a form of self-portrait.
To pay homage to this moment in history and to mark the brand’s 145th anniversary, ST Dupont launched a limited-edition collection of lighters, pens and travel accessories which feature one of Picasso’s favourite line drawings – Profil de Femme from 1965.
In the past, ST Dupont products have been gifted to British royalty. Can we expect the brand to make another appearance at the upcoming wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry?
In 1947 the French president presented a bespoke ST Dupont Moroccan Blue travel case to the future Queen of England Elizabeth II as a wedding gift, a tradition that was followed by President Sarkozy, who gifted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge a bespoke case for their 2011 wedding. For the upcoming royal wedding, we hope to pursue the tradition.
How do you see the company evolving in the future?
Our mission is to appeal to a new, millennial audience, as well as our current customer base, hence our efforts to push the brand forward with developing technologies. The next step in innovation is connected devices, which is why we have decided to launch a connected leather goods collection. As more of our life and work depends on the devices we carry, the chance of losing those devices is an ever-greater risk. To eliminate that risk, ST Dupont has entered the digital universe with the new D Tag: a stylish accessory that can track down your leather goods from your phone – or vice versa – from anywhere in the world.