I saw so much during my weekend jaunt to Antwerp and apologise for not being able to blog about my experiences as fast as I wanted to but it was a hectic few days with limited blogging time (I know...excuses, excuses). Though the city might be be small in size, there is just so much to see in this beautiful city. As I am back in London now, it makes more sense to start at the end of my travels and work my way back, discussing the real highlights of a trip which was packed full of them. First up...a real suprise for me!
One of the last places we visited was the city's fashion museum, MoMu. Susie was desperate to see the Delvaux exhibition but I have to confess that I was less than keen. I thought the exhibition would be a showcase of luxurious handbags and little else but I'm so pleased we went because I was enthralled by the stylistic evolution of the house's output whilst seeing the often unseen side of the business, the skills of the designers and the artisans that represent the core of the company's values. A year older than the Belgian nation itself, Delvaux can claim to be the most Belgian of all luxury houses. The exhibition follows Delvaux from the maunfacture of travel goods for the local nobility in the nineteenth century, through the rise of the modern handbag in the twentieth century, 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 very little in the last sixty years, all products are still made by hand, the conpany is still in th family hands and Delvaux's output remains small but exclusive.
Each mode of transport brought its own requirements for the baggage manufacture. founded in an era of when travel was largely horse drawn the company has survived through the revolutions and wars, and adapted to the requirements of ocean liners and railways, to bicycles, cars and jets. It is how the luxury house adapted its offering to the changing world around it which interested most whilst walking through the well curated exhibition space. Train travel assisted the rise of the modern business traveller, for whom Delvaux produced not just attache cases and document wallets, but overnight bags, equipment cases and even bespoke display trunks for travelling salesman.
I recently read about Monocle’s latest collaborative effort involves Belgian luxury brand Delvaux. Known for their leather goods, the Newspaper Bag features a woven Toile de Cuir exterior and a Basane Leather liner. The bag is sized appropriately for A4-sized documents and a laptop and I want one!
Monocle x Delvaux Newspaper Bag, available from Monocle
Besides leather-clad maps and holders for the driver's licence and Michelin guides, Delvaux provided the 1950s tourist motorist with gentleman's bags. This bags were capable of holding everything required for that perfect Kodak moment, with of course compartments for camera, pipe, postcards and even a handheld cine camera.
For those travelling in grand style on the ocean liners leaving Antwerp, luggage had to be capacious and extremely resistant both to impact and to damp. Delvaux certainly offered beautiful luggage which protected the cruise-wear finery of those first class travellers aboard. This selection of cases inspired the inner traveller in me, oh to travel the seas for months on end...oh, I can but dream.
In Belgium, surrealism is not part of some wild, exotic dream scape but rather it infuses the everyday. This selection of bags celebrated Belgium's most famous and my favourite surrealist, Rene Magritte's 100rd Birthday and were released in 1998.
Delvaux bags are produced by a team of forty five craftsman in the atelier in Brussels and a further sixty working from a dedicated atelier in France. Each bag is immensely complex and such craft goes in to each one. One of the exhibition spaces evokes the atmosphere of the atelier and the leather store room at the Arsenal and focuses on the production of the Brilliant. The leather working tools in the exhibition belong to Bernard Gombert, head of Delvaux's technical department and I spent a good ten minutes staring at them, imagining how each instrument is used to create one of the famous bags. The exhibition was a great way to spend the final hour of my time in Antwerp. The exhibition runs until 21st February 2010 and is well worth the visit even if you aren't the worlds biggest handbag enthusiast like me!