I’ve lost count of the number of compliments I’ve received from strangers while carrying my Graf Mondrian Cabas bag (€1,900), a leather interpretation of the Dutch painter’s famous primary-coloured abstract. Equally capable of dressing up jeans or dressing down an LBD, it is the work of interior designer and furniture maker François-Joseph Graf, and is one of many graphic, exquisitely crafted bags that are, for me, the highlight of his opulent Graf Paris showroom on Avenue Montaigne.
Each handmade design is unique, and Graf’s latest creations include the black and gold Carre d’Or Cabas (price on request) – cabas means shopping bag in French – as well as a clutch (€1,500) that pays homage to Irish modernist furniture designer Eileen Gray, famed for the iconic Bibendum chair, through its sculptural handle and simple shape, and the monochrome Le Tigre qui Pleure handbag (€2,100), which, as its name suggests, features a teardrop.
On a recent visit to the Paris boutique, I noticed an elegant woman examining the new bags on display in the four windows. “I’ll take it,” she told the vendeuse, who in turn asked to which design she referred. “The whole display,” came the reply. Graf was unsurprised when I relayed this tale. “She was quite right to do so,” he declared. “Many clients fall in love with a clutch or a cabas, and buy the cabas but not the matching clutch. Then they return to the boutique and are frustrated to learn that it has been sold.”
Buying up to 14 at a time is not an option for me, but next on my wish list is the calfskin Decrescendo shopper (€2,100) with its bold black and white design inspired by some curtains that Graf created.