Marco Probst, CEO of Delvaux, focuses on the brand's solid tradition and quality, writes Vivian Chen
Q. What's your strategy to achieve international fame for one of the world's oldest luxury leather brands?
A. We are launching in important international accounts, such as Selfridges and Dover Street Market in London, Barneys in New York and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong.
We are a family-owned company that boasts continuity and consistency. You'll never see a big, flashy logo, but you'll always recognise a Delvaux bag from its form and shape. We want to carry on with such legacy [and keep] our signature silhouette.
Q. How do you balance production capacity and business expansion?
A. Right now, we produce in our atelier in Belgium. We need to prepare our production for the future, but quality is something we'd never put at risk. Our internal organisation and our facilities [are gearing up for the expansion].
Q. Tell us the main challenges and how you tackle them.
A. There are a lot of skills and craftsmanship involved. It takes at least three to four years to train an artisan and if they work on exotic leather, the training can go up easily to five or six years. How do we train young artisans? We seat veterans and apprentices at the same work station. It's learning by doing.
Q. It's interesting that Delvaux doesn't have a star creative director.
A. Our archive consists of more than 3,000 designs. It is our treasure vault for inspirations for future designs. What we do is re-fashion the styles - taking elements out of the original designs, bringing out new colours, remodelling and [launching] new combinations of leather. The Madame bag, for example, is from the 1970s. It has its roots from our archive; it is not thrown together by some diva designers just to be an "it" bag.
We create iconic bags that are a studio effort, led by our product image director. I can't exclude the possibilities of hiring a creative director in the future, but that person will need to understand our spirit - our products are the star.
Q. Will we see Delvaux venturing into other lifestyle products?
A. We are a luxury leather goods brand and that's what we are. Maybe in five years, I won't exclude the potential of launching a Delvaux fragrance or sunglasses. But we'll always focus on luxury leather goods.
We are actively looking into men's collections, such as small leather goods and accessories. But even our cufflinks will feature exotic leather so they will always [reflect] Delvaux's luxury leather core.
Q. Do you feel that the slowing down of the Chinese economy is going to affect the luxury market for potential Delvaux customers?
A. I'm convinced it will not affect us because the biggest potential for us does not lie in the overall growth of the economy but in the luxury segment. This is [evident] in the Japanese, Korean and Chinese markets. People want to distinguish themselves from others. There's acceleration on luxury education in [growing] markets like China. We are one of the oldest luxury brands in the world, so I believe our brand history immediately gives us [credit].