INNOVATION DRIVES FASHION FORWARD

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How to Make the Popular 28-year-old “Dumpling Bun” a “Sustainable” Benchmark? | Luxe.CO Interview with the Third-Generation Heir to Longchamp

August 5,2021

When speaking of the French luxury leather goods brand Longchamp, the first product that pops up in many consumers’ minds is the Longchamp Le Pliage® series of nylon folding bags (also known as “dumpling buns”). Since its introduction in 1993, the Le Pliage® series has become a classic Longchamp product with enduring popularity all over the world.

On July 20th, Longchamp launched the new Le Pliage® Green series, continuing the simple and durable design of Le Pliage® handbags. The body material is minimalist, and features a rectangular canvas, leather flap, zipper and button. And for the first time, it’s made with innovative recycled nylon fabric.

 

“When my father (Philippe Cassegrain) created Le Pliage® handbags, he envisioned it as a sustainable product”, said Jean Cassegrain (pictured below), the third-generation Longchamp family heir and global CEO, in an interview with Luxe.CO. Adhering to the core values ​​of family innovation and respect for craftsmanship, Longchamp established sustainability as the company’s development strategy in its early days.

The Evolution of a Classic Product: Family Inheritance and Continuous Innovation

In 1948, Jean Cassegrain (brand founder, with the same name as the current CEO grandson) took over the family business and founded the Longchamp brand. Over time, he established a reputation among Parisians and international tourists, and gradually expanded his leather goods business. Longchamp retains the tradition of independent family management and is still run by the Cassegrain family today.

In the early 1990s, Philippe Cassegrain, who was the second-generation manager of the family, discovered local paper-cutting art during a trip to Japan. After returning to France, he supplemented this with nylon and leather based on his understanding of Japanese paper-cutting, and designed the first Le Pliage® handbag.

Just like paper-cutting art, Le Pliage® handbags are light and soft, with considerable space inside. Most importantly, they can be easily folded and stored. These advantages quickly made Le Pliage® hot property in fashion circles. In the nearly 30 years since the debut of Le Pliage® handbags, Longchamp has continued to innovate in terms of size, color, design and material. In 2019, Longchamp launched a “sustainable version” of Le Pliage® handbags—My Pliage® Signature environment-friendly customized series (pictured below), using a new recycled material for a classic model.

In the nearly 30 years since the debut of Le Pliage® handbags, Longchamp has continued to innovate in terms of size, color, design and material. In 2019, Longchamp launched a “sustainable version” of Le Pliage® handbags—My Pliage® Signature environment-friendly customized series (pictured below), using a new recycled material for a classic model.

The My Pliage® Signature environment-friendly customized series has received a good response, and Longchamp’s sustainable product design is constantly moving forward. In 2020 came its Green District series, which is made with ECONYL® certified recycled polyamide canvas and recycled nylon yarn. Such “green” materials are not only innovative and unique, but also durable.

As My Pliage® Signature and Green District have won the support of many consumers, “We have made our determination to transform Le Pliage® classic handbags into Longchamp’s core sustainable product line even more clearly, so we launched the new Le Pliage® this year. The Green series replaces traditional canvas fabrics with recycled nylon fabrics,” Cassegrain explained.

In Longchamp's future product planning, what proportion will of its range will sustainable products occupy? Cassegrain told Luxe.CO that in 2020, 30% of Le Pliage® handbags were made of renewable canvas fabric; in 2021, this proportion reached 60%; and Longchamp plans for 100% of Le Pliage® handbags to be made from renewable nylon fabrics in 2022.

The Sustainable Journey of a “Dumpling Bun”

 How can sustainable Le Pliage® Green handbags reach consumers? For Longchamp, there is room for energy conservation and emissions reduction in all steps from production to transportation to sales. “Sustainability is everywhere at Longchamp, and our goal is to reduce our carbon footprint while continuing to provide products of quality,” Cassegrain noted.

A long-term strategy of the brand is to make production as close as possible to the sales market. At present, Longchamp owns eight processing workshops, six of which are located in France, one in Tunisia, and one in Mauritius; in addition, the brand has established five cooperative processing workshops outside of France, operating in accordance with the company's stringent standards.

Above: Longchamp’s processing workshop in Pouzauges, Vendée, France

In addition to canvas fabrics, leather is also an important raw material throughout the Longchamp brand history and a guarantee of quality and durability. As the brand’s awareness of environmental protection has increased, Longchamp has begun to use a large number of by-products from the food processing industry as its main leather raw material, and as of 2018, no longer uses any rare leather.

Jean Cassegrain said that 80% of the leather currently used by the brand has passed the LWG certification (Leather Working Group, which audits the leather factory based on factors such as traceability, chemical control, energy consumption and waste management), and this number is expected to increase to 100% by 2023. In the leather materials of the Le Pliage® Green series, 90% are produced by factories that have obtained the LWG’s highest level (gold) certification.

In addition to sourcing sustainable materials, Longchamp also strives for environmental protection and emissions reduction in packaging. The overall carbon emissions of the Le Pliage® Green series are only one-seventh of a pair of jeans.

Transportation is one of the main sources of carbon emissions. In terms of product transportation, Longchamp prioritizes marine shipping to best avoid the harm to the environment caused by air transportation and achieve low carbon emissions. To that end, in 2021 Longchamp established a cooperative relationship with shipping company Neoline.

Communicating with Consumers: Fun, Accurate and Durable

Like other Longchamp products, the Le Pliage® Green was launched simultaneously in all online and physical stores across the globe on July 20, 2021. The brand created and released a series of humorous short videos to encourage consumers to pay attention to the issue of environmental protection.

In one of the short videos, titled “It is not a bag. It is Le Pliage®”, an elegant lady passes by, picks up a red plastic bottle from the ground, and throws it into a pink recycling bin. When the recycling bin is opened again, a red Le Pliage® Green handbag appears.

At the same time, Longchamp hopes to accurately convey messages around sustainability, rather than just calling out slogans— “We clearly inform the customers which products are sustainable and which are not. In our product promotions, we specify which parts of the handbags (such as the body, shoulder straps, zipper straps, etc.) are made with renewable fabrics.” Cassegrain said.

On the other hand, while using innovative fabrics, Longchamp insists on the durability of its widely-praised products. The Le Pliage® Green bag has a phthalate-free polyvinyl chloride coating inside to enhance durability. As Jean Cassegrain told Luxe.CO, “Product durability is closely related to earning the trust of our customers. Gaining customers’ trust is the best way to maintain their loyalty, and it is also the secret to our long-lasting brand.”

| Image source: Longchamp

| Writer: Xiaoli Zuo, Yanke Zhu

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