FRANCE

SHIBUI Issue - - CONTENTS - CU­RA­TOR BRI­SEIS ONFRAY THE MAKER BLEU DE CHAUFFE IN­TER­VIEW WITH ALEXAN­DRE ROUSSEAU (OWNER AND BRAND DE­SIGNER, BLEU DE CHAUFFE) PHO­TOS CON­TRIB­UTED BY BLEU DE CHAUFFE COUN­TRY FRANCE

Bleu de Chauffe rein­vents the work­bag with con­tem­po­rary de­sign and age-old tan­ning meth­ods.

THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT FRANCE STILL HOLDS ITS REP­U­TA­TION AS ONE OF THE WORLD'S GEN­ER­A­TORS OF HIGH-LUXE/FASH­ION BRANDS. FRENCH DE­SIGNER ALEXAN­DRE ROUSSEAU UN­DER­STANDS WHY. HE WORKED IN THE IN­DUS­TRY FOR YEARS, BUT IS NOW CO-OWNER OF HIS OWN LUX­URY RANGE. BLEU DE CHAUFFE IS AN ECOCONTEMPORARY LEATHER GOODS MAN­U­FAC­TURER IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE, WITH A TEAM OF TRAINED ARTISANS WHO MAKE AND THEN SIGN EVERY PROD­UCT BY HAND.

TELL US MORE ABOUT THE ORI­GIN OF BLEU DE CHAUFFE? WHY AND WHEN DID BLEU DE CHAUFFE BE­GIN?

I started my ca­reer path as a de­signer 15 years ago for French lux­ury and sports­wear brands such as Lan­cel and Le Coq Sportif. Bleu de Chauffe was the meet­ing of two guys at a ‘Bread and But­ter’ show in Berlin in 2009. My part­ner (Thierry Bat­teux) and I are pas­sion­ate about work­wear style, de­sign and mar­ket­ing. We de­cided to launch Bleu de Chauffe in 2009, to meet cus­tomer de­mands, de­sign­ing a high qual­ity, fash­ion­able, eco-friendly bag, made in France. Our goal was to rein­vent the ‘work’ bag into a more con­tem­po­rary de­sign.

WHERE IS THE FAC­TORY BASED? IS LEATHERWORK A WELL-KNOWN CRAFT IN THIS RE­GION?

The fac­tory is based in Mil­lau, in the south of France. The spe­cial­ity of the area is leather gloves which have been in pro­duc­tion since the 18th cen­tury. Not so long for the leather bag!

WHAT ARE BLEU DE CHAUFFE KNOWN FOR THE MOST?

We pride our­selves that all of our prod­ucts are made in France by our trained artisans. The sig­na­ture style we are known for is work­wear spirit mixed with ur­ban fash­ion. Ev­ery­thing is de­signed and man­u­fac­tured in-house. We are eco­log­i­cally con­scious, us­ing only or­ganic and nat­u­rally tanned leathers. Bleu de Chauffe use veg­e­tal tan­ning agents. The Bleu Chauffe leather bag Éclair is our most pop­u­lar bag.

THE BLUE JACKET WORN BY FRENCH FAC­TORY WORK­ERS IN­SPIRED THE NAME BLEU DE CHAUFFE. HARD-WORK­ING AND DURABLE, HOW DOES AN AR­TI­SAN CHOOSE THE LEATHER TO BUILD A PROD­UCT WITH?

All leathers are or­ganic tanned leather (only nat­u­ral tan­ning). The skin must be strong, but not stiff, smoothly fin­ished with a reg­u­lar thick­ness. Each ar­ti­san spe­cialises in cer­tain spe­cific mod­els. The leather’s type is se­lected when the bag is cre­ated by the de­signer.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT LEATHER THAT MAKES IT SO FASH­ION­ABLE?

Be­cause we use the best qual­ity leather, pro­duced by the best French tan­ner­ies. The leather is nat­u­rally tanned. This process gives the leather an au­then­tic look and a long-term life.

EACH PROD­UCT IS HAND-MADE AND SIGNED BY THE AR­TI­SAN. THERE IS OB­VI­OUSLY GEN­UINE CARE AND EX­PER­TISE PUT INTO EACH PIECE. HOW MANY ARTISANS WORK WITH THE COM­PANY? AND, HOW DO THEY TRAIN TO QUAL­IFY AS A LEATHER WORKER?

Nowa­days, 20 artisans are work­ing for Bleu de Chauffe. Among them,

“EV­ERY­THING IS DE­SIGNED AND MAN­U­FAC­TURED IN-HOUSE. WE ARE ECO­LOG­I­CALLY CON­SCIOUS, US­ING ONLY OR­GANIC AND NAT­U­RALLY TANN ED LEATHERS. ALEXAN­DRE ROUSSEAU

five are trainees. Each of them has a tu­tor. If ev­ery­thing goes well, trainees will be able to join the team as 'of­fi­cial” leather work­ers.

THE BAGS ARE VERY ‘SHIBUI’. WHERE DOES THE DE­SIGN/STYLE IN­SPI­RA­TION COME FROM?

In­spi­ra­tion comes from ev­ery­where and ev­ery­thing: daily life, fash­ion, trav­els, cul­ture, mu­sic, food, na­ture, books etc. I think that in­spi­ra­tion is linked to men­tal and emo­tional char­ac­ter­is­tics. To be in­spired, you have to be open minded, cu­ri­ous, in­ter­ested, pos­i­tive. It is an at­ti­tude which brings you into a vir­tu­ous cy­cle.

WHAT IS ‘VEG­ETABLE TANNED LEATHER’ AND WHERE DOES THE ‘OR­GANIC’ LEATHER COME FROM?

Or­ganic, tanned leather is from the cow and is tanned ex­clu­sively with

“TO BE IN­SPIRED, YOU HAVE TO BE OPEN MINDED, CU­RI­OUS, IN­TER­ESTED, POS­I­TIVE. IT IS AN AT­TI­TUDE WHICH BRINGS YOU INTO A VIR­TU­OUS CY­CLE.” ALEXAN­DRE ROUSSEAU

nat­u­ral tan­ning. Most of our leather comes from the Mas­sif cen­tral re­gion of France. Veg­e­tal tan­ning is the process of trans­form­ing leathers by means of nat­u­ral agents like oak, que­bra­cho, mimosa, chest­nut and aca­cia. The Bleu de Chauffe tan­nery in Avey­ron takes strict pre­cau­tions with water treat­ment. Af­ter use, the water is left to set­tle and then clar­i­fied and re­leased into the river, just as pure as it was be­fore us­ing it.

CAN YOU DE­SCRIBE THE TYP­I­CAL METHOD/TOOLS USED TO CRE­ATE A FIN­ISHED PROD­UCT?

In the fac­tory, equip­ment is all new in­clud­ing a press and sewing ma­chines. All the pro­cesses are in­te­grated in the work­shop.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT WORK­ING AND LIV­ING IN YOUR RE­GION?

The best thing is that we are in a very wel­com­ing re­gion. Mil­lau is well lo­cated and full of lo­cal tal­ent! It is also a sunny re­gion and an ex­tremely pleas­ant area to live in.

WHAT IS YOU LO­CAL’S TIP FOR VISI­TORS TO YOUR VIL­LAGE?

The fac­tory is lo­cated next to the very fa­mous Mil­lau viaduct in Avey­ron, made by Nor­man Fos­ter, a very in­spi­ra­tional English ar­chi­tect. Avey­ron and the Larzac re­gion in par­tic­u­lar, have al­ways been at the fore­front of al­ter­na­tive ini­tia­tives. We are also in­spired by this trend. And the fa­mous, strong, blue cheese ‘Ro­que­fort’ was born in Avey­ron in the 11th Cen­tury.

DO YOU HAVE ANY UP­COM­ING WORK­SHOPS AVAIL­ABLE?

In the next few months, it will be pos­si­ble (for groups and in­di­vid­u­als) to come and visit our work­shop.

PRE­VI­OUS PAGE Owner and brand de­signer of Bleu de Chauffe, Alexan­dre Rousseau. THIS PAGE, FAR LEFT Mil­lau, south of France.

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