Travel has shaped our need for bags. Over 180 years, the output of the Belgian luxury goods house Delvaux has met the needs of a clientele living through times of dramatic change and movement. Founded in an era when travel was largely horse-drawn, the company has survived through revolutions and wars, and adapted to the requirements of railway, ocean liners, bicycles, cars and jets. An exhibition "Delvaux: 180 Years of Luxury", which has just opened at the MOMU in Antwerp follows Delvaux from the manufacture of travel goods for the local nobility in the 19th century, through to the rise of the modern handbag in the 20th century and to the company’s vision of a new kind of elegance under its artistic director Veronique Branquinho.
The creative process behind each bag has changed little in the last seventy years: the company is still in family hands, the management maintains clear values and ethics, and Delvaux’s output remains small. Recently the studio produced bags in collaboration with Bruno Pieters, Chanel designer Laetitia Crahay, and model Hannelore Knuts, but behind the scenes, successive generations of talented designers have worked unheralded, pushing the brand’s changing image to meet the mood of the times.
As well as the history of Delvaux and the stylistic evolution of its output, this exhibition honours the unseen side of the business: the skills of the designers and artisans that represent the core of the company’s values. Dazed talks to Hettie Judah curator of the exhibition.