Goyard is not a brand-name that everyone knows. Often only the really wealthy are familiar with it. Amazing for a company that’s 224 years old, one year older than Luis Vuitton.
Goyard is an incredible success story: a Parisian maker of luxury bags and luggage, all without big budget advertising and marketing campaigns. The company boasts a “complete disregard for marketing or mass-production”, and also says it doesn’t engage “in any form of e-commerce”. In other words, you cannot buy on-line from Goyard, instead you must visit one of its 20 stores located across Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Goyard Store. Photo: Goyard
The company was founded in Paris in 1792 by Pierre-Francois Martin as a maker of boxes and cases to transport fragile objects. With no children to pass the company down to, Martin passed it on to Louis-Henri Morel, one of his workers. Morel then hired 17 year old Francois Goyard in 1845, who took over when he died.
Francois’ son, Edmond, then took over the business in 1885 and came up with the company’s emblematic Goyardine canvass - a soft, waterproof mixture of linen and cotton inspired by the clothes worn by the family’s water log drivers and their community in the village of Clamecy in Burgundy.
The family were members of the Compagnons de Rivière (“The companions of the river"), a guild of transporters that moved firewood by inland waterways from the forests of Morvan to Paris, who wore this material when working. The Goyardine proved to be a true technical revolution at the time when other trunk makers were using plain linen cloth. The exact manufacturing process of this remarkable fabric remains a secret.
The iconic piled up dot pattern clearly hints at logs driven by his ancestors; and remains fresh and contemporary to this day. Originally hand painted, the current process requires a ground-colour application, followed by three successive layers of etching colours that create its slightly raised pattern.
The classic Goyardine canvass. Photo: Goyard
The business was then handed down from father to son until it was bought in 1998 by Jean-Michel Signoles, a keen collector of all things Goyard. Signoles undertook the challenge of reinventing Goyard with the help of his sons. Without the backing of a leading luxury brand group, he cleverly focused on the heritage of the house, build new workshops in Carcassonne, France, and opened retail stores all over the world.
Interestingly, it was Signoles who re-introduced the Goyardine which had ceased to be used by the company after WWII. He also introduced new colours to the historic black shade. Colours added were red, orange, yellow, sky blue, navy blue, burgundy, grey and white which are all available for all pieces. Silver and gold are also available for hard sided luggage. A special, limited edition pink Goyardine was produced in 2008, and pieces in that colour have become prized collectors' items.
Goyardine colours available. Photo: thefrenchtangerine.com
Goyard Trunks. Left photo: alltheprettythings.com. Right photo: Mark D Sykes.
When you delve in to the history and innovation of the Goyard brand, it’s easy to understand how the original house of Martin so quickly become a favourite with the French aristocracy; and why it continues to be so highly sought after today (by individuals and big fashion houses alike, including LVMH and Kering).
According to Mario Ortelli, head of luxury at Sanford C. Bernstein, “In the event that Goyard is for sale, LVMH and Kering will surely take a look.” This may just happen, as although a highly successful company, to survive on a larger scale and achieve the critical mass required to do so (whilst remaining unique and exclusive), the company will no doubt require great capital, and the kind of know-how that larger groups can provide; as was the case for Bottega Veneta with Kering and Vuitton with LVMH.
Are you the proud owner of a Goyard bag? I’d love to hear about it and your experience at the Goyard boutique where you purchased it.