I told you about the love at first sight experience I had with the Maison Delvaux (here). The oldest fine leather goods Maison in the world is Belgium’s pride and joy, ranking as nothing less than a national gem. When you visit the Arsenal atelier in Brussels, you fully understand why that is.
The work is a 100% handmade by master artisans who use all their talent, craftsmanship and love of beauty to create the perfect products.
It all begins with the leathers, which are classified in the gorgeous Library of leathers. Some of the skins are several decades old and all are treasured and protected with the utmost care. Delvaux is unyielding when it comes to the quality of its leathers – which is no longer the case for many fine leather Maisons – and they have more types of leathers, be they exotic or not, more colors than you could possibly imagine.
When a leather is selected, it goes straight to the master cutter, whose expert hands will determine where the best places to cut any given leather for any given handbag are. In order to do this, he examines the skin, the folds, the natural creases and selects the finest parts strategically, in accordance with their placement and use on future handbags.
The cutting is usually done by hand, especially when it comes to exotic leathers, sometimes with the help of a laser.
The leather cuts then go through to the slitting machine, which reduces their thickness.
The edges of each pieces are subsequently trimmed so as to make them thinner and thus suppler, allowing for better sewing.
The threading, which refines the pieces of leather, is done by marking the cut edges of each piece with a heated blade. After sanding down the edges to make them perfectly smooth, the pieces of leather are dyed with a special heated blade. These operations are repeated several times.
Once the pieces are ready they are assembled and stitched together with a surgical precision. Some handbags need up to 8 or 10 hours of work. The first and last stitches are carefully hidden under the leather, making them undetectable.
In Maison Delvaux, the addition of metallic accessories, all the final touches and the quality control close the process of creation.
The thousands of manual actions that go into producing one item require incredible precision and skill, which explains why the Maison doesn’t partake in any industrial overproduction.
Each master artisan is capable of executing every one of the tasks involved in the making of a handbag.
The Arsenal is both buzzing and serene and it is the heart of the Maison Delvaux.
Fun fact, the Maison has kept all its archives and is still able to repair models from the beginning of the 20th century.
For the video, it’s here.