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.
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