Leaders / Style

Longchamp President Jean Cassegrain Knows What Contemporary Fashion Clients Want

Jean Cassegrain’s management has seen him reshape his family-owned Longchamp brand, LUXUO finds out what’s next for the fashion company.

Feb 27, 2024 | By Florence Sutton
Longchamp President Jean Cassegrain

Jean Cassegrain is the man behind today’s growth and expansion at French label, Longchamp. With an understanding of how to run a successful family-led business that he picked up from his father before succeeding him as president of the company, the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris graduate worked as a management consultant before working for Longchamp in 1991. For over 30 years, Jean has served as an active member of the family firm and has enhanced Longchamp’s position from a solely bag and luggage player to a global lifestyle company adding accessories, ready-to-wear, eyewear and shoes, while keeping the authenticity and sincerity of the Maison. Fast forward to 2024 and Longchamp sees the opening of its flagship store at TRX Mall Kuala Lumpur and the largest boutique in Malaysia to date signaling the expansion of the leather goods company from Paris to Kuala Lumpur. Spanning across 2,893 square feet, the store pays homage to the brand’s rich heritage through its décor that exudes an elegant yet vibrant ambiance. Modeled after a private Parisian apartment, the space offers a full range of bags, small leather goods, accessories and shoes alongside a selection of ready-to-wear pieces. Never one to be complacent, Jean Cassegrain takes the hands-on when it comes to details, from the collections and campaigns, down to choosing the art displayed within Longchamp’s boutiques. LUXUO speaks to Longchamp president Jean Cassegrain in a one-on-one interview for an insight into the brand’s long-term plans, future growth prospects and sustainability initiatives.

Since its founding in Paris in 1948, Longchamp has evolved greatly. Tell us more about the French Maison and its core DNA?

Our brand’s keywords are leather, family, fun, quality and creativity. We have managed the brand through the years to keep a good combination of those and our purpose is to continue to create and take risks. Our independence gives us the capacity to develop our projects and remain free to create, innovate and take risks as we could not otherwise. Being an independent family company allows us to take a long-term view in most of our business decisions. From leather-covered pipes to the first Nylon luggage, or from Longchamp’s Le Pliage success to our collaboration with Kate Moss, innovations made our way to what Longchamp is nowadays, an international luxury brand. Even if a lot of things have changed since 1948, we are still as focused on innovation and quality as we were in the early days.

What is the key secret behind the brand’s longevity?

The fundamental reason behind Longchamp’s success is to be able to think on a long-term basis. Longchamp is not a listed company, it is a family-led company with a new generation (the fourth one) getting ready to take the leadership of the company in a few years from now. It is interesting to note that Longchamp has only had three CEOs over the past 75 years. One of the things that we have succeeded in doing is to stay current and to always be contemporary and adapt to the times. We have always been able to be in the moment and to be relevant to each period of time. The latest testament to Longchamp’s resilience and success is the staggering +44 percent growth of the company’s turnover in 2023.

How strategic is the opening of this superb Longchamp boutique at TRX Mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia?

Malaysia has been a fantastic market for Longchamp over the past two decades. The opening of this flagship boutique is a strong testament to our commitment to this country and its highly discerning customers. The colour palette of the boutique is fresh and inviting, the total space allows for a rest, and the original artworks by French artist Geneviève Claisse (1935-2018) have been chosen with great care to provide an immersive experience. A Longchamp boutique resembles no other. We like our clients to feel “comme à la maison” — at home and welcomed.   

The store has a workshop table that highlights the season’s key pieces as well as the latest leather goods and accessories in a bookshelf-inspired display.

You seem to have been very involved with the opening of this Longchamp flagship store at TRX Mall Kuala Lumpur?

Yes, indeed, I have been heavily involved. In a store, every detail counts and every detail can be a source of emotion, whether it’s a positive emotion or sometimes a negative emotion as well. It’s really a 360-degree approach, particularly as digital grows and becomes more efficient, stores will have to bring something else to the table other than efficiency, because digital is always going to be more efficient. Stores need to bring emotion, and that’s I think the direction that we are heading in, to make sure that the emotion is there.

Your performance is making some other brands envious, especially thanks to Asia. How do you see this?

We have the distinction of being present in Asia since the 1950s, especially in Japan. My father (Philippe Cassegrain, the son of Longchamp founder Jean Cassegrain Sr.,) could tell you about his boat trips to Singapore and Hong Kong in 1956 to sell Longchamp products, so this story goes way back. Historically, we were among the first European brands to be sold in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. Asia has been an important contributor to our growth in terms of turnover, especially in Southeast Asia and China.

How would you describe the Longchamp woman?

At ease with her time, active and engaged, and relevant in terms of style and adaptation to our contemporary world and pace. Even if our brand has now become fully international, our products are always designed with the French woman in mind. Our typical Longchamp woman is a Parisian and her style is effortless. She enjoys life and wants to have fun. Our customers like our sense of quality and the casual style of our bags and ready-to-wear.

What is your priority to continue strengthening the brand and its international appeal?

Our priority remains to maintain a sustainable balance between our different markets across all continents. We are this month [February] opening a superb boutique in Malaysia at TRX Mall. Also, at the same time, we have opened a strategic flagship store in New York on 5th Avenue. It tells a lot about the international appeal of Longchamp!

To the right of the boutique, a plush lounge chair invites you to sink into its embrace, nestled alongside a sleek coffee chair and other carefully curated accents

What is the role of Longchamp ready-to-wear, one you seem to be pushing strongly?

Ready-to-wear is immensely helping to define the Longchamp woman. Aside bags and accessories, a shirt, a dress help to illustrate the vision of the brand and that of its artistic director, Sophie Delafontaine. Ready-to-wear tells a strong story, an immediate illustration of the brand’s DNA. Ready-to-wear is today at the very centre of the Longchamp universe.

Where do you see growth coming from for the brand?

The men’s universe within Longchamp represents 20 percent of the turnover, we believe that, thanks to a growing unisex trend in fashion (think Korea and its huge influence on Gen Z customers), the men’s segment will increase over the coming years. We also have other ideas about which developments are in progress. Actually, It’s one of those things that we very much believe in terms of management practices, to try a lot of things. So, we fail a lot but we try a lot, and sometimes we find success and then we try to ride on that success. It’s a trial-and-error process with a lot of misses and then a few hits, which is what makes us last and what makes us still relevant after 70 more years.

Kim Se-jeong in Longchamp’s Spring/Summer 2024 campaign

Indeed, on 6 February, we announced that singer and actress Kim Se-jeong had been selected as our Asia region ambassador. The impact has been almost immediate and overwhelming! We could not have dreamed better than Kim Se-jeong as ambassador as she embodies the core values of Longchamp. The huge crowd of fans welcoming her and cheering wherever she goes is amazing. Longchamp has never been so appealing in this part of the world, and partly thanks to a new and vibrant ambassador.

Jean Cassegrain and Kim Se-jeong at the opening of Longchamp’s flagship store at TRX Mall Kuala Lumpur

Over the past two years following the COVID pandemic, there has been a change in buying habits. What do you think your customers are now looking for in a product?

There seems to be a strong and renewed appetite for going out and shopping. Longchamp is benefitting from the very strong uplift in the business with our customers in many different countries. I think another thing that is changing is there is a fast-growing interest in CSR and sustainability. And I think this is becoming more part of the equation; a more important part of the relationship between a brand and its customers.

Longchamp President Jean Cassegrain

What are your thoughts on sustainability? How is Longchamp acting there?

One of our big concerns is obviously climate change and all of us need to be involved and act at our own level. As a business, we make and move products around the world, so we have a carbon impact. What we must do is find ways to operate our business and reduce the carbon impact at the same time. That’s what we are trying to do at Longchamp. At our own level, we cannot resolve the world’s problems alone, but we can each act in a way that contributes to reducing global carbon emissions. We have several initiatives for that, and we try to continue developing our business because it is also our responsibility to our workers and partners. Therefore, we need to continue developing our business, but at the same time, we need to reduce our carbon footprint.

Will Longchamp soon enter the M&A game and aim at acquiring another luxury brand?

No, this is not at all a priority. Our focus is on Longchamp, its clients, its teams and its cautious yet vivid expansion worldwide.

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