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Saturday, July 19, 2014

French luxury bag brand opens first Southeast Asia store in Manila

THE MOST popular print at the store is still the camouflage print
A tote is a tote unless it’s by a French luxury brand, which can cost thousands of pesos.

People who see Hervé Chapelier bags for the first time at SM Aura
are either put off or drawn to the utilitarian specs: a
trapezoid-shaped nylon or polyamide bag with handles in a number of
lengths—cross-body, handheld or over the shoulder.

The price tags can induce sticker shock, as the bigger bags can go as high as P18,000.

At the launch of the Hervé Chapelier exhibit of hand-painted bags
several weeks ago, local distributor and managing director Cheryl Lee
told Inquirer Lifestyle that she had long been a fan of the brand.

“I had already inquired twice about bringing it to the country,
but it was only after meeting with Mr. Chapelier that he agreed that the
first branch to open in Southeast Asia would be the Philippines,” she
said. “I like the brand because it is simple, utilitarian, with no bells
and whistles; it’s also my personality.”

Instead of letting the basic-looking bags stand on their own for
the event, however, Lee and her team tapped several young Filipino
artists to decorate some of the brand’s tote bags.

THIS Hervé Chapelier tote has a cameos of Marie Antoinette painted on both sides.
The results were mixed, with some attractive pieces and others less interesting.

“We suggested the theme of ‘Urban Manila artists meet French
luxury lifestyle’ to Mr. Chapelier, who agreed to the collaboration. The
pieces will not be sold, but will be displayed at a pop-up shop in
Rockwell,” Lee said.

Big in Japan

Since the shop opened several months ago, it has been drawing
mainly well-traveled locals and Japanese customers who are either fans
or know the brand.

beauty queen Maggie Wilson-Consuji likes her tiny Herve Chapelier purse
that can fit two phones, a wallet, blotting paper, a compact and even
some tiny snacks.
A saleslady who asked not to be identified said that the most popular
style for their Japanese customers is the camouflage print available in
several SKUs (stock keeping units or variants).

“We don’t need to explain or introduce the brand to them
anymore,” she said. “We also don’t have to explain why the bags are
priced that way. When some local customers come into the store, however,
they are shocked by the prices, which can reach as high as five
figures. ‘But they’re just nylon tote bags,’ they say before exiting the

Despite that observation, the store has its share of clients who
can choose from a number of styles and colors. The tiniest coin
purse-sized bag can be worn across the body and, as in the case of model

Wilson-Consunji, can easily carry two phones, a wallet, a Ziploc
bag of snacks and oil-blotting paper. The largest size can serve as a
carry-on bag that can fit enough items for a week-long trip. Since the
totes have no compartments, those zippered packing cubes will sure come
in handy.

Maggie Wilson-Consuji
Lady-like carry-alls

The brand was founded almost 40 years ago in 1976 by Mr.
Chapelier, who revolutionized the duffel bag. In the past, duffels
featured industrial-strength safety belts repurposed as straps for the
roomy bags. With the entry of the Chapelier brand, women had more
lady-like carry-alls to choose from.

This season, the camouflage print bags are still there, and are
available in basic nylon and breathable polyamide. Those who prefer
color over print can choose from hues like coral pink, navy blue, tan,
turquoise, cobalt and sand. The Nylon and Cordura lines also come in
neutrals like black, grays and blues.

Hervé Chapelier’s first boutique in Southeast Asia is at L1, SM Aura Premier.

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