Weird Sci­ence

Scratch your­self, Ramesh Nair tells The artis­tic direc­tor shares the se­cret of iden­ti­fy­ing su­pe­rior skins, and talks about how he is re­build­ing Moy­nat’s lost savoir faire, one skin at a time

Prestige (Singapore) - - FASHION - Jac­quie ang.

“i’m cook­ing a croc­o­dile,” teases Ramesh Nair, al­most too glee­fully. Moy­nat’s In­dia-born artis­tic direc­tor looks more like an in­tel­lec­tual bo­hemian than lux­ury fash­ion’s Croc­o­dile Dundee — he tames not by hunt­ing the maneat­ing rep­tile, but by ma­nip­u­lat­ing its prized skin.

Noth­ing is pre­pos­ter­ous for him to at­tempt, even a chem­i­cal used in de­vel­op­ing pho­to­graphic films has been ap­plied on the skin to achieve a rust ef­fect. “I have also tried to use iron rust but it didn’t work out,” he di­vulges.

Un­daunted, he moved on to other “crazy ex­per­i­ments”, pro­duc­ing hits that have made it to the shelves. For one, the Croc­o­dile Cam­ou­flage un­veiled dur­ing Paris Fash­ion Week this year was the first time wa­ter-based dyes were used on the skin to re­veal the in­her­ent beauty of the scales. Cre­ated to­gether with Heng Long Leather, Louis Vuit­ton MoëtHen­nessy’s (LVMH) par­tially owned tan­nery based in Sin­ga­pore, each skin was made more ex­cep­tional with one-of-a-kind pat­terns sten­cilled onto the skin by hand.

His in­quis­i­tive mind and in­ven­tive streak have also rein­vented the leg­endary Cuir de Russie (“Rus­sia leather” in French) in 2016, re­garded as one of the world’s finest leathers. Revered for its rich colour and dis­tinc­tive per­fume, it re­quired a tra­di­tional 18-month-long rig­or­ous process that was lost after the 1918 Rus­sian Revo­lu­tion. Nair’s riff is the Moy­nat Cuir Im­pe­rial (“im­pe­rial calf” in French), which bears the same dis­tinc­tive hall­marks of cross­hatch pat­terns and whiffs of smoky in­cense and myrrh. Re­cently, close col­lab­o­ra­tor Heng Long

suc­cess­fully ap­plied the tech­nique on croc­o­dile leather.

The Great Leap

When the French mal­letier opened its first South­east Asian gallery in Ngee Ann City last July, it marked the oc­ca­sion with a Sin­ga­pore­ex­clu­sive Ré­jane model im­bued with a Croco Céramique fin­ish. The mul­ti­di­men­sional colour and unique crackle ef­fects em­u­late those on Asian glazed pro­ce­lains.

Less than a year later, Nair is back to open Sin­ga­pore’s sec­ond Moy­nat bou­tique at The Shoppes at Ma­rina Bay Sands. It’s hard to imag­ine that un­til 2010, when LVMH took it un­der its wing, Moy­nat had fallen into ob­scu­rity for many years. Nair in­her­ited a her­itage house with­out a his­tory when he took up the cre­ative reins in 2011.

“This is why I am so proud of the work we have done in just seven years. We didn’t just re­vive this beau­ti­ful House; we took it to an un­prece­dented level of qual­ity crafts­man­ship and de­sign. Look at the mar­quetry mo­tif of individual pieces of leather, so seam­lessly in­te­grated it of­ten gets mis­taken as a print. This tech­nique was orig­i­nally used on wood­work, and in cab­i­netry and fur­ni­ture. Now we have ap­plied it to leather.”

Clearly, founder Pauline Moy­nat’s legacy of in­no­va­tion — she cre­ated the first wa­ter­proof trunk in 1854 with can­vas coated with gutta-per­cha (the sap of a tree from In­done­sia) — is safe in his hands. Car­ry­ing for­ward her bold spirit of us­ing un­ex­pected ma­te­ri­als or meth­ods to el­e­vate her de­signs, he rel­ishes the thrill of trial and er­ror. “It is one of the in­creas­ingly rare lux­u­ries of cre­ative work to­day, where I can re­ally break new ground through re­search and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.”

Truth Be Told

But don’t let those spe­cial ef­fects dis­tract you from the top-grade skins. Nair be­lieves de­sign has to be hon­est.

“For me, the ma­te­rial and the ob­ject must go hand in hand. One of my strong­est de­sign prin­ci­ples is about pu­rity and au­then­tic­ity, which means I don’t com­pro­mise on the qual­ity of my ma­te­ri­als. Leather is a liv­ing ma­te­rial that changes with time and use, and be­comes more beau­ti­ful as it ages. This is why I avoid heav­ily treated, plas­ti­cised leathers that look ex­actly the same after years of use.”

“I think the beauty of the bag comes from the unique patina it de­vel­ops from years of use,” he opines. In fact, those marks of age­ing — dis­coloura­tion and scratches — are the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a qual­ity skin. Which brings up the im­por­tance of ed­u­cat­ing con­sumers. It starts from the re­tail staff, who go be­yond sell­ing to help­ing cus­tomers un­der­stand the value of leather and its ori­gins.

How do you treat such pure, pre­cious skins with re­spect? Nair keeps de­signs clean and frills-free. “Ex­ces­sive dec­o­ra­tive el­e­ments mask me­di­ocrity in de­sign, make and ma­te­ri­als,” he re­minds.

from left: ONE of THE MANY STEPS IN THE MAK­ING of MOY­NAT’S fa­mous TRUNKS; MINI VAN­ITY; MINI RÉ­JANE IN croco cam­ou­flage

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