For the true fashion-lover Italian luxury bag and accessories brand Valextra carries a particular type of allure; like the unicorn of handbags, ownership of a Valextra bag was an unlikely dream, discussed in hushed voices that referenced its myth of unattainability.
Singapore’s new Valextra boutique is located at Paragon Shopping Centre.
Images: Sara Jane Ong
Now, with the opening of the first Southeast Asian flagship store, Valextra has arrived in Singapore with an elegant bang; located at Paragon Shopping Centre, the boutique is bright and white with mirrored surfaces and golden trims.
Much like the bags themselves, lauded for their sharp lines – minimal before minimal became a “thing” – lack of logo and ingenious pockets, closures and functionality, the storefront is modest in size, hiding the larger-than-expected interior.
Founded in 1937 by by Giovanni Fontana in Milan, Italy, Valextra has long specialised in distinctive shapes and prides itself on being wholly created in Italy – not just the leather working; even the hardware is Italian made, and accounts for the bags’ high prices.
However, this alone is not the reason why Valextra has become synonymous with both the new term “stealth luxury” (where a product costs a fortune but no-one can really tell) and “taste beyond fashion”. It is the second reason that has made the brand the first choice of not only fashionistas, but also the more discerning “stylista”.
A Valextra bag is not “of” the fashion world with its seasonal trends and faster-than-lightspeed changes of what is “in” or “out”; a Valextra bag bypasses all this with its classic timelessness which is, paradoxically, somehow always more modern than any other bag.
Valextra CEO Marco Franchini (above left) with the newly appointed design director Álvaro González (above right) in the new Valextra boutique in Singapore. Image: Sara Jane Ong
In Singapore for the opening of the boutique, brand CEO Marco Franchini and newly appointed design director Álvaro González sat down with herworldPLUS to answer a few questions that might go someway to explaining the fascination the fashion world has always had with Valextra.
Why has Valextra remained one of the most coveted “stealth luxury” accessories brands?
Álvaro González (AG): “Valextra was born like that. The luxury of the brand hasn’t been destroyed of the years. The people in charge did a beautiful job of ‘continuum’. The DNA [of the brand] has stayed the same over many years; it has always kept its integrity.”
Marco Franchini (MF): “Why is it so appealing? With all the trends in the market, Valextra is an authority. Many brands abused their logos; Valextra did not. We have never used a logo. Heritage is important; Valextra is made only in Italy; everything is made in Italy. Thirdly, personalisation. Valextra has done this since the beginning – this is what we do.
“I would almost say that I’ve never been so lucky to be in such a situation. Even the trends are now coming in this direction [the Valextra style].”
What makes a Valextra bag, a Valextra bag?
MF: “You have to go back to the history; it’s about superior craftsmanship and continuous design innovation. These are the two elements that make Valextra a legacy [brand]. Also the product was not so distributed; it’s never been distributed [widely]. The product was scarce, was rare. And then there was the added level of privacy, of secrecy about the brand; that made it even more desirable. So that’s how the ‘myth’ of Valextra started and we intentionally wanted to capitalise on that. It is a product for connoisseurs. The awareness is not huge, but the credibility is very, very high.”
With the increased awareness of the brand, do you plan to change your way of doing business?
MF: “The brand will not change a bit. The the product will change. What does this mean? It means we want to be modern and we want to update the functionality for modern functionality. What is needed today is not the functionality that was needed yesterday.
“So, why the DNA of the brand will remain the same? The product expression will update, as it did in the past. We think about continuous design innovation … it will continue; this continuous design innovation, which means that the product needs to ‘live’.”
When the concept of a brand is so defined, as with Valextra, is it easier or more difficult to produce “new” looks?
AG: “We all had the vision that it was an important moment in Valextra’s history, to take the next step … but it’s a very delicate situation. We could take a brand like this and go crazy … but we [kept] the balance to bring the design and innovation but to keep the quality is harder than it would be with a normal fashion brand.
“We spoke about how to move forward … Actually, when I was presenting the designs for the first launch of the new collection the process was very natural, very organic, everybody saw the new styles as a normal evolution in the history of Valextra. For me it’s been the best compliment to see the client creating an instant relationship with the product; they all ‘see’ Valextra, that’s the first thing that
“The new Manzoni bag is one of the new Valextra bags I created that keeps the traditional way of opening, it’s hard (on the front) but it’s also approachable, comfortable on the body; and the details (on the rear of the bag) are taken from the 24 Hour Bag, one of the most important men’s bags in Valextra’s history, the pockets were created to carry the passport and air-ticket, on the women’s bag is for the mobile (phone) and the wallet.
“The design is so simple that you can’t ‘see’ the functionality; you have to open it to see. It’s not a bag for 2014, it’s a bag that you can use in 2020. It will last forever in our collection.
“It is a very thin line, a difficult line to bring ‘newness’ into the collection … because what we don’t want is to keep the design always the same; we want to evolve. Constantly evolving but it’s not too overwhelming [of the brand’s DNA]. And to not do too many things. We want to keep it small,
Why did you chose Singapore for your first Asian boutique? Is the Asia market an important / growth area for Valextra?
MF: “I don’t think coming to Asia needs much explanation; in the [fashion] industry now it’s the fastest growing area and Southeast Asia is really growing fast, even with China slowing down, so business wise it makes absolute sense.
“Right now we have a strong presence in Japan, Korea and the US; so now our objective is to create a strong presence in Europe and more in the United States – we’ll open five or six stores in the next
“At the same time we are looking for prestigious partnerships in markets in important areas; Singapore is one of these. So we are very happy to have established this partnership with FJ Benjamin and so we’re opening this store [in Singapore] now. Singapore is part of our strategy of expansion.”
MUST-BUY VALEXTRA BAGS
Valextra Tric Trac minaudière
Based on the brand’s classic Tric Trac “kit” bag for men that was created for drivers, the alligator minaudière has two compartments, one which “snaps” open with an ingenious fold; the other is a zipper pouch which also holds a mirror. This is part of Valextra’s move into the evening bag market.
Valextra Manzoni bag
Created by design director Álvaro González as one of his first “new” bags for Valextra, the Manzoni bag has the look of a classic 1950s handbag with a hard, snap-front opening, numerous interior pockets, rear external pockets and a removeable shoulder strap.
Valextra La Scala clutch
A wallet-sized version of Valextra’s best-selling Handy clutch bag, the mini La Scala is large enough to be used on its own, or tucked into it’s larger version. It comes with a “handy” wrist-strap that slots in and out of the fold easily. It’s another of the brand’s forays into the evening bag market.
The Singapore Valextra boutique is located at Paragon Shopping Centre on Orchard Road. For more information about Valextra, go to www.valextra.it; follow the brand on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Valextra.Official, on Twitter at @VALEXTRA_HQ and on Instagram at @valextra.
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