The word that springs to mind when describing Verbreuil’s low-key but astonishing handbags is rigorous. Its designs are so spare and so precise that every detail is laid bare and has to be utterly perfect, down to the tiny hand stitches on the little triangular “feet”. They generally have no logo and not a hint of metal hardware, yet they are completely distinctive to those in the know.
I first heard about Verbreuil bags – and their rarity – from a Parisian friend and swiftly made a pilgrimage to its small shop by the Jardin du Luxembourg. The classically elegant space exudes an almost vintage air, something enhanced by the art-deco looks of some of the bags, and the solicitous staff are keen to explain the details of every style. In short, Verbreuil behaves and looks and as if it has been there forever, so it came as some surprise to learn that it is less than two years old.
Founder Sylvie Véron Hériard-Dubreuil has had several successful careers – including editor of a technologies magazine and design consultant for a telecommunications operator – but the inspiration for Verbreuil was her deep interest in architecture (one career she has not pursued), with a focus on craft and quality. The brand is, she says, “an amazing family adventure”, created with the help of her three grown-up children. Together they spent three years designing prototypes, finding the best suppliers and manufacturers and perfecting some very difficult shapes, such as the clever fan-shaped, pleated side inserts. Most of the bags (from €990) are traditionally made, with leather stretched over a light wood frame (only one style, Tranicq, third picture, has a softer structure); all are made in France and Hériard-Dubreuil personally chooses each skin at the tanners.
For me, every Verbreuil bag is seductive – from the boxy, retro Callihors (second picture) to the slim, simple Duo – and choosing one was not a hasty business. I eventually ordered my mini La Gare (first picture) “à distance”, which allowed me to specify the style, colour and skin over the phone (with knowledgeable bilingual staff), but you can also order by email as well as visit the shop.
It arrived beautifully packaged and I explored it as an objet d’art – the geometric shape contrasting with the rounded smoothness of the crocodile-covered handle; the surprisingly strong and secure magnetic closure with its satisfying, discreet click; the silky calfskin lining. Despite its small size, it’s very versatile and comes with two straps, so it can be used as a clutch, a shoulder bag (my favourite) or a cross-body. I intend to use it sparingly, though, because a potential heirloom deserves careful preservation.