Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Fauré Le Page: The next hot thing to hit sweltering Manila

The 307-year-old French maison opens at Greenbelt 4, its coveted bags and leather goods introduced by its gentleman owner

Fauré Le Page's creative director and owner Augustin de Buffévent at opening of Greenbelt 4 store: His love of art and museums helped transform the three-century-old French maison

As Metro Manila melts in the heat this Thursday afternoon, Fauré Le Page’s creative director and owner Augustin de Buffévent surprises us with the declaration that, in fact, he loves the Philippine heat, the sun, the light. He must confess, he says, that he loves going to the Mediterranean now and then for that.

The owner and creative director of the 307-year-old French maison, the oldest French luxury leather house, is in Manila to open Fauré Le Page at Greenbelt 4, Makati, the first store of this heritage brand in the Philippines. And it will not come as a surprise if the Fauré Le Page line of bags and leather accessories is the next hot thing to hit a sweltering Metro Manila. It is said that since the store had a soft opening four weeks ago, even before its official opening Thursday, April 25, its merchandise has been going fast, mainly walk-ins, without pre-opening publicity. Apparently Filipino women, many of whom love to travel, not only have caught on with the brand that’s sought after in Paris, but have also developed a preference for the bags known for their lightness, fine leather craftsmanship, functional design, very sophisticated aesthetic—and a monogram that is not in your face.

At ribbon-cutting, SSI Group Inc. CEO Anton Huang (far left), Ayala Land Inc. SVP Mariana Zobel de Ayala, and Fauré Le Page’s creative director and owner Augustin de Buffévent

Fauré Le Page’s iconic fish-scale monogram is known only to a market with a finely cultivated taste. And it evolves in the most subtle ways. For instance, Fauré Le Page’s creative director and owner Augustin de Buffévent describes to us how the latest in the collection features an embroidered monogram that involves 21,000 stitches per centimeter, in the hues of the brand’s signature blue.

Cutting the ribbon at the opening of Fauré Le Page at Greenbelt 4 were SSI Group Inc. CEO Anton Huang, whose luxury retail group is bringing in the brand, Ayala Land Inc. SVP and head of Leasing and Hospitality Mariana Zobel de Ayala, and de Buffévent.
Fauré Le Page has a heritage that dates back to the 18th century. Founded in 1717, it was the master gunsmith for French kings and queens starting in the reign of Louis XV. It made their guns and hunting tools. From Marie Antoinette to Napoleon, the French revolutionaries, to literature’s Honoré de Balzac and Alexandre Dumas—they used the maison’s ceremonial weapons of power, and—as described in Fauré Le Page’s history—”prestige and symbols of seduction.”

Iconic Daily Battle

In 2009, when the maison stopped its gunsmith activity, it shifted to bags and accessories. Its motto became “Armed for seduction,” and its symbol, the fish-scale monogram, inspired by the marine life, the ancient animals that stood for strength. It was a most viable reinvention.

For 10 years, it is said, de Buffévent traveled Europe, the Middle East and the US (he lived in New York for several years, it is written). He loved going to museums, galleries, and in the process discovered in the archives the history of Fauré Le Page. About 2011, he acquired the brand—almost three centuries after its founding.

What grew constantly along with the reinvention of the brand was a clientele, initially in Paris, that wanted a finely crafted bag that had not only a sophisticated aesthetic, but also function and sensibility suited to the needs and pace of today’s women. Thus arose the popularity of and demand for the by-now iconic Daily Battle tote or the sharply shaped Battle Ready. Also popular is the gun-shaped pochette, a whimsical throwback to the maison’s history.

“We constantly reinvent ourselves,” says de Buffévent. “My work is symbolized by a tree, you don’t see its roots, but because we have long, deep roots, that’s why we have a big tree.”
His manner of speaking quite passionate and candid, he adds, “There must be a balance between past and future. If you remain in the past, it becomes a museum. A museum is interesting, but the idea is to renew yourself…. Like in love, in the power of seduction.”

Mario Katigbak, general manager of multi-luxury brands under SSI Group, with Thelma Sioson San Juan of, in the Faure Le Page lounge styled and airconditioned for the day at Greenbelt.

It’s apparent, even during a first meeting, how passionate de Buffévent is about his work and the brand he gave a new purpose to. It showed in how he opened the store in Metro Manila. This was not his first time in Manila. His first visit was way before the opening of the store. He went around. “I loved the shopping mall, the access to the garden, the trees are amazing, the food is good, and the women are elegant,” he says.
“There’s craftsmanship and soul in this country,” he says, coming from a man who is not reluctant to admit that “I do things with passion.”
Apparently, he must have fallen in love with the Philippines, and decided on opening a store here after an agreement with the SSI Group. The store, in his words, “has a Parisian décor with a bit of the garden so you have the tree right in the middle. There’s a dialogue between the outside and the inside.”

A lover of museums and fine art, he has visited the National Museum and could talk about it at length: “The Philippines is a country with craftsmanship and culture….I was seduced by the Weaver Dreamer, so romantic, absolutely amazing technique…The Parisian Life, as early as then, a dialogue between the Philippines and Paris.”
The first thing he checks out when he visits a country is to visit its museums “to have a look at (a country’s) roots, then go to the restaurant to taste the food.”
Fauré Le Page, he stresses, is “not into fashion. We don’t have to follow the trend. The idea is to be a classy classic. For now and the future… we’re very happy when I see a lady with the Daily Battle bag she bought 10 years ago.”

The leather craft, he says, was made for hunters “so it’s resistant and lasts long.”

Asked to describe his work as creative director, he says it will surely take long. It’s like a “cocktail mix,” he says. One goes to the archives, reads, dialogues with craftsmen, architects. “….a constant dialogue. Don’t stay in the office.”

He says he is always curious. “I love meeting people,” he says and you get that vibe because he is affable and easy to talk with.

“And I read, read, read, from comics to books.”

This good-natured French gentleman, who loves Manila’s hot summer, perhaps has just introduced what will be the hottest bag among Filipino women this year.—Thelma Sioson

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