By now, many of you have probably seen Rihanna’s graphic “B*tch Better Have My Money” (BBHMM) music video and the beautiful Goyard trunk featured in it. I noticed the trunk’s design almost instantly from the bags I’ve periodically seen around the city (not nearly as ubiquitous as Louis Vuitton or Chanel) and from the small store in SF Union Square I had peeked into a few times. The fact that these were the only exposures I had to the brand made me curious. I’m generally pretty on top of fashion news and had never actually seen the brand mentioned but I took it upon myself to learn more.
Goyard was founded in 1853 in Paris making it the oldest leather goods and trunk company still doing business (Louis Vuitton was founded in 1854) and was even doing business as far back as 1792 under the the House of Martin. Back then they did custom trunks for travel and at this period, monogramming was essential for train travel (equivalent to luggage tags today). In 1834 the store moved to 233, rue Saint-Honoré in Paris where they still remain today. It wasn’t until the son Edmond Goyard (the second generation of Goyard to own the business) took over in 1885 that the business really took off. It was Edmond that created the first advertisements, participated in various World Expositions, and opened four branch stores. He also came up with the emblematic Goyardine canvas, launched a pet accessories line, and developed products for automobiles.
The Goyard products are made with the Goyardine canvas material patented by Edmond’s son, Robert Goyard. The chevron pattern of the material is created with multiple layers of etching colors giving the pattern a raised appearance and is incredibly difficult to counterfeit. It has the appearance of hand painted leather but is actually a waterproof canvas.
Goyard still only has four product lines: travel goods, handbags and accessories like wallets for men and women, pet accessories (that were introduced by Edmond), and special orders. The products don’t change every season and the biggest change they’ve had in the last hundred years is an update of available color options. Hand painted monogramming is still available and they still require actual proof of royal ancestry in order to adorn your name with the crown logo. You may be thinking “uh oh, sounds like an expensive bag” and yes, the monogramming may run you a pretty penny but the bags themselves are well within the traditional luxury range, around $1200 for a handbag compared at Louis Vuitton’s $1800. The lack of general awareness and understated logo is what keeps this brand luxurious and mysterious and keeps the bag in the hands of those who truly appreciate its heritage.
Members of the Goyard family owned the company from its founding until 1998 when Jean-Michel Signoles, a fervent Goyard enthusiast, bought the house and revived it. Because Goyard is still a privately-owned business, it does not have to answer to shareholders and corporate executives like the massive conglomerate luxury houses today (LVMH owns Louis Vuitton, Dior, Celine, Fendi, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs and Bulgari and Kering owns Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, and Saint Laurent). This added freedom allows Goyard the luxury of not needing to advertise or scale the company wildly which also allows the brand to keep its cachet and refrain from becoming commonplace. In fact, Goyard hardly advertises at all, doesn’t participate in e-commerce, and is only available at about 16 locations worldwide according to their website. They have a few dedicated sections in Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus along with specialized boutiques. I’ve peeked into the store in Union Square so many times but I never realized how rare it is to live near one.
So what was with Rihanna’s BBHMM video? Given the closeup shot on the logo later in the video, it seems the product placement was endorsed by Goyard themselves. Maybe they’re trying to increase awareness in the millennial generation or maybe it was just because of Rihanna’s infatuation with the brand that it was included in the video. I, for one, am incredibly intrigued by the brand. It turns out they even have an art book about their heritage that comes in a special trunk. The book was even named the “luxury bible” by the great Suzy Menkes. Unfortunately, only 233 copies of the book were produced (an homage to their historical address, 233 Rue Saint-Honoré) but one copy is available for viewing upon appointment in the Paris boutique. I think I have an addition to my France itinerary!