The origin of the luxury handbag is likely one of fashion's best kept secrets. It all began in Belgium, in 1829 to be precise, when the accessories brand Delvaux was founded in what was then not yet the Kingdom of Belgium.
A year later, when the country ratified its independence as a constitutional monarchy, Delvaux became the official purveyor of the Belgian royal court, a distinction that continues to this day-Queen Mathilde is regularly photographed carrying popular styles like Le Brillant. American royals are fans too, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé among them.
Outside its native country, Delvaux has observed a low-key profile for nearly 200 years, but that is starting to change-a new flagship in New York is a testament to its growing ambition. Chairman and chief executive officer Jean-Marc Loubier and artistic director Christina Zeller didn't just pick any spot on Fifth Avenue, but the corner adjacent to the tony Sherry-Netherland hotel and across the street from The Plaza Hotel.
“It was especially important to open in a location that is meaningful and impactful in the country, and there is no better place than on the legendary Fifth Avenue in New York City– where we can tell the story of both America and Belgium,” says Loubier.
This cross-cultural exchange is evident throughout the store: The staircase, which retains its baroque railing from the building’s life as the art and antiques purveyor A La Vieille Russie, has been re-carpeted in the colors of the Belgian flag. A chandelier from a Flemish church hangs over a French 18th century Régence table, once owned by American railroad magnate George Jay Gould I.
For the uninitiated, the store offers a brand primer: A full sweep of the company’s heritage is on display, from vintage leather-cutting tools from the Belgian atelier to whimsically themed mini-bags Delvaux creates in honor of particular cities (fries for Brussels, taxis for New York and so on). It is also the first Delvaux boutique to boast a discrete men’s space.
Upstairs, visitors pass the emblem of Official Purveyors to the Royal Court of Belgium to visit the VIP room, which overlooks Central Park. There, clients can peruse the top of the line exotic handbags while enjoying a glass of champagne, a retail experience that needs no translation at all.
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