A fashion designer turned handbag creator, Jérôme Dreyfuss is often referred to as the enfant terible of the accessories word. Which may have something to do with his unapologetic love of fun. Starting his eponymous label in 2002 (after working with John Galliano, no less), his designs are synonymous with a care-free type of personal style that French women do so well. French women like his partner Isabel Marant, in particular. Read on from more from the handbag king…
Describe your role:
Founder and artistic director of the Jérôme Dreyfuss brand.
What would a typical day-in-the-life of Jérôme Dreyfuss entail?
Once my son is off for school, I begin my day by a little sport and head off to my Parisian offices in Bastille. There, I oversee designs and materials for my handbag and shoe lines. I love to work with craftsmen and try to create long-lasting collaborations with them by making them part of the collection process as much as possible. Since we are a growing company, I also have a lot of different projects to develop regarding store openings. I always have been a fan of architecture and design in a broad sense so creating spaces and designing stores is something I love to do. I work with very talented architects to try to make each space unique.
At the end of the day, I focus on creation. I think it is essential to show my universe and create a dialogue with the women I try to please.
After leaving the office, real life begins with my wife and son. I try to enjoy every minute of it.
With a career spanning over 15 years, did you always envision a future in design?
Yes, I have always felt that my purpose was to anticipate needs and desires of a constantly evolving world.
How did you find your start in the fashion industry?
I grew up in Nancy, a small town in eastern France. Young, I always knew I wanted to create my own aesthetics and be a designer. The approach to fashion came later with an opportunity to work with John Galliano in Paris. After this, I was hooked and decided to launch my own brand of ready to wear. I was only 23.
Everything went really fast and I loved every minute of it. I had the opportunity to work with amazing clients like Michael Jackson. One night, at diner with some friends, I discovered that none of them was wearing a bag. They told me that they couldn’t find any they liked so I started to make some for them. That’s how it all started.
You remain faithful to traditional craftsmanship, creating functional and practical, luxurious handbags and footwear. What are your preferred materials to work with?
The great thing about working with leather is that each material reacts in a different way and serves its own purpose. I am very conscious of environmental issues and try to select my skins accordingly. I started very soon to work with python. It stays one of my favourites as it has such a specific feel and texture to it.
Where do you draw your design influences from?
Like every designer, I am very influenced by the world around me. Most of my inspirations come from women I see on the Parisian streets. I love trying to design to best pieces to combine allure to practicality. Architecture is also a big inspiration for me. I am particularly fond of 1950’s Prouvé, Perriand and Janneret designs. It shows in the designs of my stores as much as the construction of my handbags.
Do you have more of an intuitive or analytic approach to design?
I have always been more intuitive than analytical. After all, design is first and foremost a question of emotion. What interests me the most is how to transcribe a story through colour.
Is there a standout style that you will continue to produce, for years to come?
The ‘Billy’ is a great part of my identity. It’s a piece that is celebrating its 10th anniversary and still has a great future in our brand. I like to think it illustrates a big part of who I am. It is soft, friendly with a laidback attitude. But today, a lot of other pieces have joined the Jerome Dreyfuss family; Bobi, Igor and, the new companion for this winter, Mario.
Why does each hand bag have a male name?
I first started to think about handbags as something quite mysterious. As a man, it creates a kind of jealousy to see women so attached to them, carrying their whole life and treasures. I decided to give them male names because I saw them as “lovers” that accompany you throughout the day. Now, it has become a joke in the office on who gets to name them, it gives them a personality.
Has there been a favourite moment in your career thus far?
Every new step is an adventure. I enjoy every minute.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?
For me, independence and freedom is invaluable. Being able to work on what you are passionate about and develop your own message is priceless.
Describe your customer in one sentence:
A contemporary woman, an ultra-connected urban-nomad.
How important is the international market to your brand?
It is quite important and fast-growing. For the moment we are sold in over 300 stores around the world and don’t plan to stop there. But we are also opening our own stores and responses have been great. Every opening is an adventure for us. The next one is in London this autumn. We are very excited.
Do you feel business acumen is just as important as one’s design skill?
Yes, it is crucial. In my case, I had the great opportunity of launching my brand with a very talented women and childhood friend: Rachel Chicheportiche. She is the businesswomen behind it all and we can work on expanding the brand together.
What would you say is your personal philosophy?
I think the most important thing to remember is to stay humble and light about what I do. After all, it is only fashion. Let’s not take it too seriously. The great chance is to be able to have fun in doing your job.
What advice would you give to a young emerging designer interested in following a design path?
Be daring and passionate! First of all, make what you are.
Which role does traveling play in your life?
Since I became a father, I don’t like traveling that much as it takes me away from my family. But I still love meeting craftsmen and I try to go to factories as much as I can. Hand-made production is my favourite and seeing such skills is always fascinating.
What is next for the brand?
We have a lot of new projects. Expanding our new shoe line, opening a new store in London in the fall and another one in “Le Marais” in Paris. We are also building new offices to accompany our growth. All of this is very exciting and we can’t wait to see what the next steps will be.
What do you love about Australia?
You can find Jerome on Instagram @jeromedreyfuss