14 NAME KNOW MOYNAT
The best dressed women across the globe are quietly ditching their It bags for RAMESH NAIR’s designs
IF LOUIS VUITTON AND GOYARD are the last words in luxury travel today, Moynat began the sentence. Older than both, the once-iconic French luxury travel accessories label was started by a woman, Pauline Moynat, in 1849 in Paris (unheard of at the time; women couldn’t even vote). From the first steamer trunks to the first train cases and baggage for the first automobiles, Moynat made them all for the A-list of French society. Then, in 1976, it disappeared from the collective conscience, and was relaunched by Louis Vuitton-Moet Hennessy’s Bernard Arnault in December 2011. At its helm: Indian-born Ramesh Nair, who, in two short years, has wooed international tastemakers with his subtlety, attention to detail, and superb quality.
Though Indian designers have headed French fashion labels before—Ritu Beri at Jean-Louis Scherrer and Manish Arora at Paco Rabanne—this is the first time a designer from the country has been hired to revive a historic French brand. And it’s not a responsibility Nair takes lightly. A graduate of the first batch of New Delhi’s National Institute of Fashion Technology (Ritu Beri was a classmate), Nair moved to Paris in the early ’90s to work at Hermès under Martin Margiela and then Jean Paul Gaultier. And you don’t need to be French to know how impressive a pedigree that is. His job? Roughly put, to develop new bag designs.
Nair’s introduction to Moynat, however, was accidental. He always had a taste for things vintage, and picked up “some beautiful Moynat Limousine trunks at a flea market”. This was his first encounter. And his second came in 2010, when Arnault offered him the top job. By this time, Nair had made a mark for himself as a senior designer at Hermès. “I was immediately interested,” he remembers.
Today, on the Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, the sprawling Moynat store—the only one in the world because Nair believes in taking it slow—receives names like
supermodel Natalia Vodianova, Princess Charlene of Monaco, actress Leelee Sobieski, fashion maven Sarah Colette, models Sigrid Agren and Solene Herbert, and the publisher of Tank magazine, Caroline Issa, among others. Most of them came, says Nair “because the story of Moynat struck a chord, and they found that the bags themselves told the story through their details, the craftsmanship, the subtlety of the designs.”
Nair focuses on quality leathers that are developed specially for Moynat at the best tanneries in France. “It starts with the selection of basic materials of the highest standard,” he says. “We pay minute attention not only to our leathers but also to each component, including our metal hardware, which is designed by us and made to our specifications.” A Moynat signature that points to the extreme attention to detail is the spacing of nails on the trunks. “They are spaced exceptionally close together (7mm apart), giving the luggage not only a special look, but adding to the sturdiness,” says Nair.
The label is also an example of looking into the past to move ahead into the future. The Réjane bag and clutch are cases in point. Hot sellers today, these designs are inspired by Gabrielle-Charlotte Reju (nicknamed Réjane) who was, along with Sarah Bernhadt, one the most illustrious French actresses of the Belle Époque, and a loyal Moynat client who often commissioned personalised trunks. And this is another tradition that Nair has revived. A recent custom-designed trunk for Olivier Krug follows the shape of a magnum of champagne, and is designed to carry one for the mogul of bubblies. “Another unique project was the breakfast trunk, designed and produced for Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno, complete with gas burners and his personal cooking implements,” says Nair.
Now in the third year of its second life, the brand is growing in popularity despite the discretion that flows from Nair (the opening in December 2011 saw no celebrities, and this year, another will open in London in Nair’s signature subtle style). There are no online shopping frenzies and pop-up stores, and, surprise, no seasonal collections. There is also no real logo, just Moynat stamped into the metal hardware. And by way of emblem, only a subtle art deco repeating-M pattern designed in 1920 by the brand’s then creative director, Henri Rapin (today reserved for personalised trunks). As for marketing, “What is marketing?” asks Nair. This deliberate focus on exclusivity makes Moynat a brand to look out for. And with Nair, we’re sure the surprises will not cease anytime soon. Varun Rana
"We pay minute attention not only to our leathers but also to each component, including our metal hardwear,” says Ramesh Nair
Above: The Réjane clutch. Right: A printadvertisement for Moynat’s Limousine trunk. Below: Natalia Vodianova with herRéjane purse.
The Moynat store in Paris
Moynat Réjane clutch, price upon request.
Moynat Réjane bag, price upon request.