They say all’s fair in love and war, but rarely are the two so closely linked as at historic Parisian brand Fauré Le Page, which began life as a gunsmith to royalty and today creates some of the most sought-after handbags and accessories in the world. We speak to artistic director Augustin de Buffévent about the incredible craftsmanship that goes into every Fauré Le Page creation, and the brand’s plans to celebrate its 300 anniversary
In a world when most of the things we desire can be bought at the click of a button, there’s a certain charm to a purchase that can only be made in store. The experience of shopping in the flesh is tactile and personal in a way a website cannot be; the right boutique can make the retail experience memorable in itself. In the case of a brand such as Fauré Le Page, whose beautiful leather goods and accessories can be purchased in just two cities in the world, a new level of exclusivity is added. This is a brand for those in the know: a cult buy that will instantly turn the heads of collectors and fashion insiders alike.
'Audacity is part of the soul of the house, which entered the annals of French history when it defiantly handed out weapons to the revolutionary forces' - artistic director Augustin de Buffévent
Fauré Le Page began life 300 years ago in 1717, early in the reign of King Louis XV of France. Master gunsmith to kings and princes, it provided weapons and accessories to the great and good of the European courts, and many of its historic creations now grace the collections of the leading museums around the world. Throughout the years, the firm has featured in works by the most famous writers in France, from François-René de Chateaubriand to Honoré de Balzac and Alexandre Dumas.
In 1789 and later in 1830, Fauré Le Page armed the revolutionary forces in France, displaying an independent spirit that continues to characterise the brand today. ‘The house has constantly been able to make audacious choices,’ explains artistic director Augustin de Buffévent. ‘Audacity is part of the soul of the house, which entered the annals of French history when it defiantly handed out weapons to the revolutionary forces.’
One more recent audacious choice was that of venturing into the world of women’s handbags and accessories. Though not without precedent, as Fauré Le Page was already a leading maker of hunting accessories – cartridge cases, kitbags, satchels and the like – this was still an exciting new venture for the brand, and one that has brought it to an even wider audience. Its stunning boutique opened on rue Cambon in 2012, followed by a space in Galeries Lafayette and two boutiques in Tokyo. These remain the only Fauré Le Page retailers in the world.
In keeping with its history, Fauré Le Page sees its luxurious accessories as ‘weapons of seduction’, and as much care and skill goes into making them as has gone into every piece in its 300-year history. Today the creative team consists of everyone from architects to leather workers, carpenters to silkscreen artists. A signature of the brand is its ‘écailles’ or ‘scales’ patterned fabric, which references the traditional hallmark of master gunmakers. The material is handcrafted, before being screen-printed using a process similar to that used on silk. It is then waxed and grained, making it glossy and resilient yet soft and supple. The canvas is available in only six colours, each reflecting a different aspect of the brand, from the steel grey of rifle barrels to a blue in tribute to Paris.
‘The Daily Battle in our toile écailles quickly became a must-have,’ says de Buffévent of the brand’s signature shopping tote, which has achieved cult status. The écailles carry-on bag is another favourite among handbag collectors. A quick internet search will reveal a host of blogs and forums dedicated to the range at Fauré Le Page, and de Buffévent sees the brand’s unique history as central to this success. ‘Our collection of luxury bags, decorated with the iconic scale motif, bears the hallmark of a glorious past allied to a deathless modernity,’ he explains.
The gun motif has become another signature of the women’s collection, continuing the metaphor of weapons of love. ‘True to its motto, armed for seduction, Fauré Le Page offers arms to win any heart,’ enthuses de Buffévent. The Calibre 21 handbag has been a huge success. A leather bag that can be worn in various ways, it features a pistol-shaped pochette on the front in écailles canvas, and is now available in a larger size, as the Calibre 27. The gun pochette, which can be clipped to any of the larger bags, is another timeless favourite.
This season is particularly exciting for the brand, says de Buffévent. Not only will the team launch both a new colour of its écailles canvas and a full line of eyewear, but there will also be a book to celebrate 300 years, and special events and displays in store. ‘The house is full of projects. I don’t know which one will come out first … let’s keep it as a surprise. That’s more exciting.’ Mystery and exclusivity, after all, are part of the charm of Fauré Le Page.