#LuxuryWatch: The Truth and Beauty Issue


‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ by John Keats - manuscript

This month’s perspective on brands, culture and luxury from Rebecca Robins, Interbrand Global Director and Meta-luxury co-author.

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty.’ The words of Keats seem to resonate as this edition celebrates brands with purpose, a perspective on the temporality of luxury, compelling calls to action on retail, and marks a milestone in the relationship between brands and culture.

This edition also features a conversation with one of the 124 French master craftsmen and women, awarded the lifetime honor of Maître d’Art. The award is given in recognition of their ability and commitment to invest in that unique knowledge and carry forward its relevance for generations to come.

And, for anyone with a love of language, and in the true sense of where truth meets beauty, there’s a special tribute to the birthday of a Nobel Laureate.

In conversation with Michel Heurtault, Founder of Parasolerie Heurtault

Parasolerie Heurtault umbrella and parasol ParisIn 2013, Michel Heurtault was awarded the title of Maître d’Art [Master Artist] by the Ministry of Culture, France’s highest honour for an artisan. It is the French equivalent of UNESCO’s National Living Treasures Created in 1994 by the Ministry of Culture and Communication. The prestigious title of Master Artist is held today by 124 French master craftsmen and women. It recognises French artists for their excellent career, unique know-how, and dedication to the revitalisation of artistic crafts in France. Awarded for life by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the title entrusts those who receive the distinction with a mission: to transmit their know-how to a student who will be able to reinvent and build a future with it.

Share with us the story behind Parasolerie Heurtault and the points in your journey that resulted in the creation of something unique.
When I was a child, I was fascinated by umbrellas, and by the workings of umbrellas. I would take them apart, fix them, put them together again. I started collecting antique umbrellas and parasols when I was 18, studying their components and learning about the fashions and materials used at the time in order to be able to restore them to their former glory. I embarked on a career creating costumes for the cinema and the theatre, and corsets for the best haute couture houses, while specialising in historical reconstructions and costumed balls. As my umbrella and parasol collection continued to grow, I decided to start creating my own pieces, so in 2008, I founded Parasolerie Heurtault at the Viaduc des Arts in the heart of Paris. Today I create unique parasols and umbrellas, restore antique pieces for customers around the world, and create bespoke pieces combining traditional and contemporary techniques for the theatre and cinema.

Parasolerie Heurtault black parasols

Where does tradition meet innovation in your creations?
The pursuit of excellence is behind everything I do and my purpose is to create unique umbrellas and parasols that are durable and sustainable. Each component is chosen for its durability and all of my creations are respectful of the environment—plastic is totally banned! This runs counter to the approach of most umbrella manufacturers. The umbrellas that leave the atelier last 20, 30 years, even a lifetime. Since I started, I have gathered an extensive collection of antique umbrellas and parasols, from the 18th century to the 1960’s. I study these pieces, observing the cutting and assembling techniques of each period, from which I draw inspiration to create new shapes. Some of the cutting tools we use in the workshop are more than 200 years-old! I would love, one day, for my collection to be exhibited around the world, to show the incredible know-how that went into creating each of these historic pieces.

You have been awarded the prestigious lifetime honor of Maître d’Art.
The title of Master of Art is awarded by the French Ministry of Culture to master craftsmen and women who hold a unique and exceptional savoir-faire. I am one of 15 Masters of Art in France who were selected to participate in the WONDER LAB exhibition, which will be held at the most prestigious Japanese museum, the Tokyo National Museum, this Autumn. This will be the first time that the diversity and excellence of French craft will be exhibited in Japan. The principal sponsor is the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, which supports the promotion of excellence in French arts and crafts and does a lot for French craftsmen and women. The exhibition will go on to travel the world, to be shown in other countries renowned for their unique craft and savoir-faire.

Parasolerie Heurtault / umbrella store / Paris

20UNBUTTONED-blog427-v2The new temporality of luxury: Great perspective from The New York Times‘ fashion editor Vanessa Friedman, cutting through the new meaning of fast fashion.

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 11.28.29 AMFashion for Good: Names you need to know. A world-changing line-up of new brands making real progress in sustainable textiles and materials is announced in the ‘Plug and Play – Fashion for Good’ accelerator.

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Brands to the power of M&A: As some brands are engaging with a new definition of sustainable growth, BoF looks at other ways in which they may be looking to new futures.

960x0Retail and the wrong metrics: The retail industry has used “same-store sales” as a key indicator of a retailer’s health for decades. The only problem?
It’s irrelevant.

Farfetch_logo_panel@2xFarfetch goes further
As retail is undergoing radical re-evaluation, and Ralph Lauren closes its flagship store as it refocuses, it’s telling that “the store of the future” is being imagined by a brand that owns no physical retail.

harpers empire#HarpersBazaar150
A study in brands and culture, in permanence and change, as Harper’s Bazaar marks a milestone of 150 years, with projections on the Empire State Building of some of its most iconic images.

heaneyWords of the month

“To find me a bubble for the spirit level”

Happy birthday Seamus Heaney. April 13th would have marked Heaney’s birthday. In honor of one of the true greats, here is his Nobel Laureate speech.

Tweets and beats: @robins_rebecca.

Find more #LuxuryWatch columns on LinkedIn and here

For a deeper read: Meta-luxury: Brands and the Culture of Excellence.

Image at top: ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ from a collection by John Keats via The British Library. Q&A images © Parasolerie Heurtault.