Longchamp: The French Connection


Au revoir Henri…

Ever since the story broke that the 123-year-old Henri Bendel flagship would be closing in January 2019, nostalgia buffs, visitors to the city and fans alike have been streaming through the doors at 712 Fifth Avenue, hoping to walk away with a last-minute purchase from what had been an iconic store. The cry of the crowd has been: Sell me something to remember you by! Unfortunately, the once swanky icon with one-of-a-kind designs is long gone, and nowadays you’d have to content yourself with commercial pieces. It’s the end of an era.

Bienvenue à New York Longchamp

So it was a relief to learn of the inaugural opening of the Paris-based Longchamp flagship store at 645 Fifth Avenue, only two doors down from Cartier, the 170 year-old French luxury good company that recently celebrated its 100th anniversary on Fifth Avenue. May Longchamp do as well!

With 300 Longchamp stores worldwide, the Fifth Avenue flagship at 4,000 square feet is the largest in the United States. Enter and be dazzled, the store shimmers and shines! As I entered, I met the poised and lovely Lauren Vargas, a sales associate kind enough to show me around and answer my questions.

At the Beginning…

From her I learned that in 1948, Jean Cassegrain turned his Paris tobacco shop—where he was known to cover his pipes in an exquisite leather—into an accessories business. Named after the famed horse track on the outskirts of Paris, Longchamp is known for its beautifully crafted handbags and luggage.

As you can see above, the main floor is given over to accessories – to sunglasses and belts, to shoes and wallets and ladies’ apparel —while the lower level is all about the incredible ‘Le Pliage’(the “folding”) tote. Every minute of every day, 11 of Longchamp’s ‘Le Pliage’ totes are sold. It’s estimated that over 30 million have been sold to date, including one medium-sized tote in navy that I bought for my granddaughter last year. She adores it! So, what’s it all about?

Inspired by origami, Longchamp created ‘Le Pliage,’ a lightweight foldable bag that has become iconic worldwide. The small totes start at $95, the medium at $125 and the larger ones at $145.  The palette of colors changes with the seasons. Going into fall, there was a magenta – “Dahlia” —that was eye-catching, so, too a shimmery tote in an iridescent brown. Young girls love them because they can put them inside their backpacks, and women who travel love them because they take up very little space in your luggage, and make a  très chic tote in which to bring back all your new-found treasures. If you want to go upscale, the same totes also come in a buttery leather in a dazzling array of shades. In the photo upper right, if you look closely, Lauren is folding a leather tote that’s equally compact. Complimentary shipping is included.

Moving Forward…

And should you not find precisely what sets your heart a-flutter, you can design your own tote, sparking it with various signatures. Note the tote upper left, with the ballet shoes inscribed: Dancer. Or it could be your name. The custom totes are made in Paris and you can expect delivery in 4-6 weeks. It’s not too early to be drawing up your Christmas giving list…

As for ‘Dear Santa,’ I’ve lost so many pairs of designer sunglasses that the last time, in complete despair, I promised myself I’d never ever buy another pair. I had left the glasses you see above, brought back from Paris weeks earlier—le dernier cri— on a table at Le Pain Quotidien on Madison Avenue, and by the time I returned three minutes later, they were nowhere in sight. After two years, I find my resolve weakening. That said Santa, the six-inch stilettos trimmed with fur could really make this girl’s holiday nights shine. To say nothing of that gorgeous go-everywhere faux-snakeskin bag. And definitely the high-stepping black boots! I’ve been working hard and behaving myself all year…s’il vous plait, don’t forget the black boots!

Pretend for a moment, I’m your fairy godmother and tell me: What would you like from Longchamp this week?

À bientôt

Well, that’s all for today mes chers amis. Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you next week when I’ll have the coffee ready. Until then, may life be good to you!