Valextra is bringing a touch of Milanese sobriety and its “engineered beauty” to Paris with its first flagship store in the French capital, opening today at 267 Rue Saint Honoré.
“It took some time. I wanted to find the right location, the right cradle for Valextra because we are quite a particular brand with a long history and an aesthetic that is very unique.” said Xavier Rougeaux, chief executive officer of the Italian leather goods firm.
In an interview, he called Paris a “very important place for luxury in the world, because of what it represents — also because of the tourism that there is.”
The new Valextra store sits on one of the French capital’s most vibrant and upscale thoroughfares, and boasts such famous neighbors as Fendi, Christian Louboutin, Loewe, Celine, and Valentino.
“I think for the French customer or for the international customer who might not know us, I think it’s reassuring to find us in a location that speaks to the values of our brand and expresses a sense of luxury,” Rougeaux commented.
Indeed, the executive expects Paris to quickly become one of Valextra’s top five stores in the world, “if not the top three.”
Founded in 1937 by Italian engineer Giovanni Fontana, the luxury house currently operates 38 freestanding stores in the world, with its online boutique bringing the total to 39.
The brand is prized for its sophisticated, hand-crafted bags and leather goods marked by a signature black-lacquer piping hand-dabbed on cut edges. This feature is echoed in the prominent black frame around the large store-front window of the Paris store, while the door handle resembles one of tabs used to open Valextra’s popular Tric Trac wrist bag.
The expansion into Paris comes amid strong business momentum for Valextra. While Rougeaux did not provide revenue figures, he said net sales in 2022 jumped 43.6 percent, supporting a double-digit EBITDA margin.
As of the end of September, net sales are up 31 percent versus last year, he added.
While Valextra has long welcomed French clients in its Rome, London and other international boutiques and its online store, the brand has only been present in France since 2016 via shop-in-shops at Le Bon Marché and Galeries Lafayette in Paris. A location within Printemps was added more recently.
“The French market is an important one for Valextra, and it represents more than 25 percent of our business in Europe,” he noted.
Rougeaux said it was important the architecture and decor of the Paris boutique blend signifiers of Valextra’s Milanese roots with its Parisian surroundings.
Hence a classic French facade that’s capped with dark green marble from the north of Italy — green being an iconic color for the brand that recurs inside on walls, carpeting and glossy carrier bags.
The interior template was conceived by Milan-based firm Andrea Tognon Architecture, which has signed several Valextra boutiques in China, including in Chengdu, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, and executed in-house.
Rougeaux described its boutiques as venues for storytelling, engagement and glorifying the product. Echoing other Valextra locations, the design is based on clean lines, a restrained color palette of mostly plaster white and dark green, with some quirky, contemporary furnishings and bespoke artworks for “personality” and “tension.”
Among the latter is a Plexiglass sculpture incorporating an ancient wood beam and resting on a marble base. Titled “Inclusioni B,” the work by Italian architect and designer Andrea Branzi underlines Valextra’s links to Milanese design.
Rougeaux described a unique design approach in mid-century Italy that was all about “creating something beautiful, but at the same time, it needs to be balanced with a sense of functionality.
“Valextra designs products… with a beauty that comes out of function. And it’s brought to life by design and texture,” he explained. “Buying a Valextra handbag is an investment, something that you pass on to the next generations.”
Upon entering the 650-square-foot store, customers alight on displays of bags and leather goods. Past a central seating hugged by a curved shelving unit, which heightens a residential “salon” atmosphere, is a third zone with cases displaying bags in exotic skins, and men’s business cases.
Among exclusives are Iside bags customized with embroideries by artist Sandrine Torredemer, who works under the nom de plume La Filature, and Iside bags available in a special Palmellato leather that is hand-finished with the palms of artisans for a special textured effect.
Rougeaux, who had been Valextra’s marketing and commercial director from 2015 to 2016, returned to the firm as CEO in January 2021 after a three-year stint as CEO of Smythson in London. He previously held senior positions at luxury brands including Loro Piana and Sergio Rossi.
Valextra is planning a slate of events later this month to celebrate its retail venture in Paris, including an in-store cocktail and a gala dinner.