From guns to bags: Owner/creative designer of Fauré Le Page shares about the artisanal heritage luxury French label
When one thinks of luxury labels that have a long, celebrated heritage, certain brands come to mind. Balenciaga celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, while Chanel (109th), Prada (106th), and Louis Vuitton (165th) are some names in this extremely short list.
It doesn't take much to start a brand but it takes everything to keep it alive, relevant, and thriving for any given amount of time, much less a century — which is why heritage brands that are able to celebrate this milestone are worthy of a closer look.
Joining this prestige is Fauré Le Page. The French label was founded in 1717, but its popularity doesn't match that which its peers enjoy.
You see, the brand has been dormant for much of its time, and has only recently awoken when the current owner and creative director Augustin de Buffévent acquired the label in 2011. Since then, Fauré Le Page has taken a millennial turn (more on this later) and the ninth store in the world opened its doors in Singapore. To aid us in demystifying this three-centuries-old label, we spoke to de Buffévent, who happened to come armed with cheeky firearm puns, to learn more about Fauré Le Page's history — from that of a firearms manufacturer to a maker of fine leather bags and accessories.
How did you get into fashion design? Was it something you dreamt of doing?
Augustin de Buffévent (ADB): Since young, I have always been attracted to design. I would go to museums, auction houses, and attend exhibitions on my own free time, or just to escape work. All these developed my attraction to and knowledge for design.
Have you been to any museums in Singapore?
ADB: I went to the Asian Civilisations Museum and it was a breath of fresh air. They have many fantastic collections including one on ceramics. Their exhibitions are very well explained.
Is there a particular museum or auction house that you often revisit?
ADB: I go to a lot in Paris, Hôtel Drouot in particular. It is a building that houses many auction houses. There are auctions every day and they are a major source of inspiration for me because they bring together many different styles. You can find 19th century ceramic birds and 17th century portraits alongside giraffes and armours. I love this cocktail of antiques that are together only by coincidence. It creates fantastic surprises.
Fauré Le Page was first a firearms manufacturer before it went into leather goods. How did this happen?
ADB: Fauré Le Page was a gunsmith for the high aristocrats. Basically, we made weapons for prestige — they were not created to fight or kill. If you take a look at royal portraits, the subjects posed with swords or guns because these items were symbols of their power and of their power of seduction. Accompanying the weapons were leather goods. These leather goods were originally made for men to carry their ammunition, personal effects, and weapons. Fauré Le Page has been making these leather goods too. Our collections reference pieces in our archives.
Did the decision cripple the business?
ADB: Not at all. It’s a reinvention. We have the know-how on leather goods, metal, and wood and we are still employing these expertise. The company has to evolve or it will disappear. The market changes its taste and we don’t live the same way people did in the 18th century for example, so it is normal to adapt our products. Even if we are reviving an archival design, we have new ways of making it. We’re constantly looking for newness and ways to improve our manufacturing.
Reinvention has many faces. Why focus on leather goods?
ADB: It is an area of craftsmanship that we possess. I believe that leather goods are the weapon of seduction that can you wear daily. The reason why we started with the Daily Battle was because it is a bag you can carry all day. And when your motto is “Armed For Seduction”, it is obvious we will develop new weapons of seduction.
Prior to acquiring Fauré Le Page in 2011, you worked at Dior. How did that experience aid your undertaking of a brand’s creative direction?
ADB: I was working in Dior’s retail arm and was opening new stores in different countries during the time of John Galliano. It was a moment of high creativity and craziness. I had the opportunity to travel and discover different types of consumers, markets, and cultures. Furthermore, I know what goes into a store. But I think what is more important is to trust the identity of Fauré Le Page. We are not looking at our competition. We have 300 years worth of history and archive, so we have a lot to dig into. My work is to translate and modernise the identity of Fauré Le Page while keeping true to its DNA and roots.
Fauré Le Page opened its first boutique in 2012 in Paris. Why did it take so long? After all, the brand has been around for over 300 years.
ADB: Because in seduction, you take time. You don't hurry. [Laughs]
With nine stores in the world right now, the latest of which opened its doors in Singapore this year, the production of leather goods would have increased tremendously. How do you maintain the brand’s artisanal quality?
ADB: It's a daily battle. We like to renew our collection regularly, so it's really the dialogue that you create with your craftsmen that enables you to have this constant evolution.
Will each store around the world differ from one another?
ADB: Each store will have exclusive items and decor. Fauré Le Page is a house and each room sits in different parts of the world. In Singapore, we have the pavillion of the garden; in Taipei, the hunting lodge; and in Seoul, the dining room. Singapore is a garden city so it was obvious we had to do a garden pavilion. I love this idea of creating surprises within the stores.
Tell us more about the scale monogram the brand is most known for.
ADB: The first armour humans created were scales. They copied the scales from animals to create a double skin to protect themselves. It's a motif that belongs to the gunsmith or arms industry, and that’s the reason why it became the symbol for Fauré Le Page. The scale also becomes a weapon of seduction because it's a symbol of strength and self-confidence.
Tell us about your latest collection.
ADB: From the shape to the colour we use, it’s always a reminder that love is a battle. You have to fight for love or love will disappear quickly. It's a daily battle and you need to ensure the relationship goes well by creating surprises, being unexpected, and constantly renewing yourself — these are what we commit ourselves to. We have started to play with the canvas — with perforated canvas and rainbow lining — in order to create the surprise. We also designed specific pieces for Singapore by combining different types of exotic skins that are covered in scales. This evening box, Heart Grenade, as well, is special as it's a reminder that when you are passionate, your heart beats like a grenade.
Do you have a favourite piece?
ADB: How can you ask me a question like that? [Laughs] I have spent so much time on every product, it's like asking me to sacrifice one of my children. Impossible.
Fauré Le Page has recently taken a tongue-in-cheek turn with gun emboss and prints of aquatic girls. It’s very cute.
ADB: The scale is a symbol in Japan of the ocean. So it's a way of using our scales differently. The designs tell a story too. There are two sides to each design and each side is different.
It comes back to the element of surprise.
ADB: Exactly. When you carry this bag and smile, it's a victory. [Laughs]