For many accessories designers, the inspiration to create a collection comes from art exhibits, exotic vacations, or a fruitful visit to a well-stocked vintage shop. Not Jerome Dreyfuss.
“I basically began to make the bags by watching my wife and my friends,” he explains. “They are stylists and designers; they wear clothes that are really contemporary but they’re not into shopping at the big brand shops on Madison Avenue or Avenue Montaigne. I noticed that they never had bags—or were just carrying cheap fabric ones instead of leather bags—and I thought, ‘Okay, I’ve got to make bags for these kind of girls.’ So I began to work to seduce my friends.”
That seduction has been a success. Paris-based Dreyfuss—who began his career in fashion as a designer and stylist—launched his line of luxe utilitarian bags in 2002. The versatile totes—roomy enough to fit everything for an over-scheduled day, but still undeniably chic—quickly resonated amongst the clientele he initially aimed for, including his wife, designer Isabel Marant. Made from super-supple leather, his capacious bags are filled with plenty of interior compartments and pockets, along with a few extra practical features, like a tiny flashlight to help spot the keyhole each night when you reach your front door.
The collection has become ubiquitous on the most stylish streets in Paris—whether you’re strolling in the Marais or on the rue St. Honore—and has attracted a tastemaker following here in America, where the bags are carried at Fred Segal and Barneys Co-Op as well as boutiques like Mick Margo and Ludivine. Dreyfuss’s bags appeal to women who want to look stylish without blaring a designer label, and usually end up tucking workout clothes or a baby bottle next to file folders and a Goyard wallet. These stress-free designs are as appropriate for Sunday brunch in Williamsburg as they are for a power meeting during the workweek.
Last year, Dreyfuss opened his own boutique in St. Germain des Pres, where he offers an extensive range of the bags, including high end takes on his most popular styles in crocodile and metallic-finished python. “The boutique has been really important because it’s given me the opportunity to show a whole universe of everything I have in my head,” he says. “It’s given me a stronger identity.”
The shop has also allowed Dreyfuss to have a better understanding of the broad base of customers he now appeals to. “There are three types of women buying the bags,” he says. “We have trendy girls—what the French call ‘opinion leaders’—and we also have girls that are lawyers and are a little tired of the logo thing: they are looking for something that’s well made but really discreet. And I’m really proud to know that that there are also a lot of women from 65 to 70 coming into the shop, saying, ‘These are so great—they remind me of the 1970’s.’ I’m happy to answer to all those different women, because for me it’s really important to build a brand and not just be for trendy people.”
As the appeal of “it” bags has diminished, Dreyfuss is indeed filling a niche with designs that feel relevant and fashionable but not of-the-moment trendy. His focus is creating pieces for women that will become wardrobe staples. As he puts, “Life is getting harder, and finally the dream is to see normal people living well in their own skin. Before, we were dreaming about all the people from Hollywood with their diamonds. Over-marketing has killed that. I think that now there is a new dream: just to be happy and have a great life.”