Hello, blogging world. I'm back from my 4-month long laziness induced hiatus.
In order to properly celebrate this comeback, I thought it would be fitting to focus on a French brand (as I'm French) and more specifically, from my region (Provence).
Massalia is a brand new label that produces well designed and easy to wear leather sandals. Their products are made out of vegetable-tanned leather, which means that the whole tanning process is respectful of the environment and took almost two years to achieve. I still don't understand why we do not make this process mandatory for all the leather goods produced and imported in France and Europe.
Apparently, I'm not the only one swooning over those beauties! Massalia is a year old and already has retailers in Japan (full list here).
Below my selection of favorite designs. There are not many for now, but I'm sure the range will get wider as the brand grows. I'll make sure to try on a pair (and maybe buy one!) as soon as I go home to visit my family.
The shoes retail for under 100€ which is very reasonable in my opinion, especially when you think about the mass produced alternatives flooding the market (think Zara).
I know for a fact that a lot of you won't ever ditch your pair of Stan Smith or Converse. But for those of you out there seeking an alternative that's not found on everyone's feet or made by South East Asian kids earning in a month what you earn in a few hours, I present you with Du Travail Traditionnel (DUTT, which means "Some traditional work" in French).
These beauties are handmade in France by adults (how rare is that) and feature natural rubber soles and Calfskin leather. Production has been centralized in the Dordogne region (western France) and the vast majority of the components Du Travail Traditionnel uses are sourced from France (including the boxes!). The brand was founded about 3 years ago by a then 24-year-old entrepreneur, Morgan, whose goal was to maintain traditional French savoir-faire (know-how). Mission accomplished, as dozens of thousands of pairs come out of French shoemaking factories every year thanks to his perseverance and business flair.
Keep up the good work!
The price point is very reasonable, around 120€ for a pair, which is lower than the latest Nikes or Adidas retail for and are currently only offered for men (except if you're a woman with big feet like me, in which case there's hope).
Some people call that industrial chic, I call that well-made products with a purpose and a clean design. Jieldé's story (from J.L.D., the initials of founder Jean-Louis Domecq) starts in the 1940s when Domecq realized he couldn't find lighting adapted to its mechanical workshop so he decided to build something himself. After a lengthy trial and error process, he launched his first model in the fifties called the "Standard" which was renamed "Loft" in 1987. The most important innovation was that the lamp could bend and turn without affecting the wiring because there are no wires going through the joints. Electrical continuity is ensured thanks to copper connectors in each one of the joints: simplicity and robustness at their finest. Today, the company offers several dozens products in different lengths and colors as Jieldé's lamps went from having a solely utilitarian purpose to becoming staples of high-end home decor magazines.Each lamp has a unique serial number and is still handmade in Lyon..
Jieldé lamps are available at retailers around the globes (full list here), the products below are available on Horne.
La Botte Gardiane is a French boot making company located in Villetelle in the Camargue region, a small village between Nîmes, where the word Denim comes from, and Montpellier (and pretty close to where I grew up!). The company has been in activity since 1958 and is a Certified Living Heritage business since 2007 (more info about that here).
"Botte" means boot and "gardiane" comes from the word gardian which is the French equivalent of an American cowboy or an Argentinian gaucho (great video about the history of gardians here).
La Botte Gardiane is the only company in France that's still specialized in "French cowboy" boots. Would you imagine Texas having only one boot maker left? Frightening, I know. Over twenty craftsmen work for the company and their goods are made solely using chrome-free leathers from the Alsace region but also Belgian and Italian ones. There are 60 steps to the making of one pair of boots and the whole process takes 3 hours. The process hasn't been altered for the past 50 years. Being originally designed and created for herdsmen, La Botte Gardiane's products boast a great sturdiness as well as a high degree of comfort.
La Botte Gardiane managed to handle the challenges of a globalized economy after being in a difficult financial position for years. Indeed, half of its turnover is made outside of France, with retailers all over the globe, from Japan to the USA.
Prices begin at 120€ for sandals and 250€ for boots
Here's a video about the boot making process (you can understand most of what's going on even if you don't speak French).
Founded in 1892 by three brothers, Maison Causse is the oldest glove making company in France. Located in Millau, a center for glove making known throughout the world (Maison Fabre and Lavabre Cadet are also located there with Causse being the oldest), the company employs 40 people and produces 25,000 pairs of men, women and driving gloves per year. Now, the fourth generation of Causse is managing the company, even though it was bought by Chanel in 2012 as a way to preserve crafts and techniques that would be on the verge of disappearing were it not for a powerful financial backing.
Maison Causse is also committed to preserving its savoirfaire. Indeed, their factory boasts a glove making school so, if you're thinking about quitting your dead-end job for something more meaningful, well, there you go and Bienvenue en France.
Talking about driving gloves, if I ever get a driving licence, I think I'll get driving gloves before I even get a car. Yes, I know, my priorities are in perfect order.
It's not the first time I mention those gloves, they were featured in my "Gearing up for winter" post and you can find below some of their creations.
Originally created by shepherds from the Béarn region (hence its name) to protect themselves from the damp, the béret is now a deeply ingrained part of French DNA alongside baguettes and Gauloises cigarettes.
Located in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, Laulhère was founded in 1840 by Mr. Lucien Laulhère and is now the last standing historic béret maker after the company acquired its almost 200 years old competitor, Blancq-Olibet, in 2013. Let the irony sink in. A quintessentially French headgear is on the verge of disappearing from the French manufacturing landscape when, up until the late 80's, the country churned out millions of bérets a year. Since 2011, the factory was awarded a NATO military contract which helped get the company back to a healthy financial situation (military contracts represent half of the company's turnover).
I've owned a Laulhère béret for a few months now and I've worn it almost every day (I live in Paris, it's cold and wet out here). I love it and I'm happy to contribute, within the scope of my modest means, to the revival of French manufacturing. I paid 20€ for my 100% virgin wool béret which is probably cheaper than a lot of Asian made copies from big brand names.
telier Particulier is a French accessories brand founded in 2013. Currently offering four categories of products (ties, scarves, belts and socks) made in Italy and Switzerland, the brand showcases the best of luxury craftsmanship at accessible prices (Loro Piana cashmere and wool ties retail for 45€, wool and leather belts for 50€).
They manage to achieve this result by getting rid of intermediaries, offering their products only through their e-shop and not spending a dime on advertisement.
See below for an explanation of their business model (similar to Everlane), even for non-French speakers, it's pretty straightforward.
Delicate Run is a French brand of sneakers founded by sneakerhead Vincent Vetois. The brand currently offers only one model, the Manta, which was launched in partnership with Melbourne-based store Up There. Solely using high quality materials and rare exotic skins such as python, lizard, stingray or even shark (the most prevalent ones being French calf and goat leathers), the entire production takes place in France and the aesthetics of the brand can only be described as "80s running shoes meet contemporary luxury footwear", which is appropriate as the brand's mission is to offer a luxury reinterpretation of the classic running shape.Their goal is not to foray into performance running shoes, but to focus on bringing to the market high-end, long-lasting luxury sneakers with a great shape.
A successful bet that was.
Watch below a pretty interesting video about the manufacturing process of the Delicate Run Manta.
Price vary between 192€ and 420€ and each pair comes with a wooden box.
If you're anything like me, you probably wasted a pretty hefty amount of money on umbrellas. Fabric tearing, shaft bending, stretchers breaking. I probably threw away a dozen of them and I don't even come from a particularly rainy region.
After the last one broke, I started thinking there had to be a better alternative. Better made, better looking, sturdier and not made in China.
Enters le Parapluie Paris a young brand of umbrellas. Their products are made in a French factory active since World War II and are of the highest quality. Prices are aslo pretty high, but not higher than the sum of what you probably wasted so far.
Side note: forget about this option if you tend to be absentminded, better lose one crappy Chinese made umbrella than its luxurious French made counterpart.
Starting point: tech products tend to look very much alike, are made from cheap eco-unfriendly materials and are designed to end up in the garbage can quickly. Even though products like keyboards or USB keys are essential in how interact with technology, they are often overlooked.
Founded by creative technology entrepreneur Julien Salanave and award-winning product designer Frank Fontana, Orée is a French brand born out of the desire to provide elegant, durable high performance technology products mainly crafted from natural materials, combining timeless craftsmanship techniques and cutting-edge technologies.
All their products are designed and crafted to order in Castelnaudary, southern France.
Side note: Orée stands for Original, Rational, Elegant, Engaged.
Maurice Manufacture is a 65 year old shoe manufacturer based in Cholet, France. The factory manager describes their products as traditional, but with a "newstalgic" singularity. I love this word. Let's make it a goal to get it into the dictionary.
Now back to the shoes. Made from the finest materials by skilled craftsmen, you're getting a luxury product, at a fraction of the cost. Maurice also makes shoes for high end companies but also… for the police!
Prices range from about 130€ for sandals to 250€ for boots, which is not cheap, but similar to a lot of Far East made options.
Below, the tamest color combinations, but if you're feeling bold, they have dozens of different options. The shoes are made to order which is why there's a 8 to 10 days delivery time. But hey, you're not ordering Wendy's here.
A little extra here, a pair inspired by the Pink Panther (yes, from the cartoon).
Born in Carry-le-rouet, on the shores of the Mediterranean sea, Rose et Marius is a luxury candle and soap brand. Founded by Magali Fleurquin Bonnard, a former jewelry industry executive, it's a tribute to her (my!) exceptional region. Though the candle cups are made in Limoges, the French capital of porcelain, the candles are made of bee wax in Grasse by master perfumers. As the protection of the environment is core to the brand's DNA, there's no GMO or paraben used, wicks are made of cotton, and packaging has been reduced when possible.
Think about picking up one of these scented gems on your next trip to Provence.
November Adelaide is a Paris-based brand founded by Julien Comte-Gaz and Adrien Poznanski. They focus on bowties, made out of couture houses left overs which is why each model is produced in limited quantities. Why bowties? They say it's the symbol of elegance, and we very much agree with them. Elegance with a twist though, as they use high quality material such as wool or silk, and incorporate unusual ones such as neoprene.
Les Partisanes is the project of two childhood friends, Elise Mennesson and Jessica Quintal. They offer stylish, made in France watches, exclusively for women, which brings femininity to a traditionally male oriented industry. The most expensive watch costs 160€ which makes it an affordable yet unique gift, soon to be found on all stylish ladies' wrists.