For a brand founded nearly 200 years ago and brought to prominence by the patronage of Belgium’s 19th-century bourgeoisie, Delvaux certainly comes up with some modern surprises. The luxury-leather-goods label’s ongoing relationship with the Magritte Foundation and collaborations with members of the Antwerp Six have given it a sharp edge over the years – a direction encouraged by artistic director Christina Zeller. However, its latest joint venture, the extraordinarily oversized Brillant l’xxl bag (£7,900) in black or tan, takes an interesting new tangent.
Rather than sticking with its Belgian roots for this design, Delvaux linked up with Algerian-born, Paris-based designer Jean Colonna, one of the original 1990s trailblazers for androgynous, post-punk deconstructionism – he subverted 1980s excess and glamour with monochrome collections in lesser fabrics, with campaigns by provocateur photographers such as Nan Goldin and Juergen Teller. Colonna abandoned his career in the early 2000s but, reading the runes of current design, returned four years ago to revive his ideas – this time working in luxury materials, especially cashmere and fine silk from Nepal.
He is not an obvious choice for Delvaux, but he became obsessed with the idea of subverting its codes in a luxurious way. “I’ve known Delvaux for years and the idea came naturally – to create something very different for them while still representing the craftsmanship and DNA of the house,” he says. “I had a vision of merging two worlds – Delvaux’s extremely luxurious artisanal products and my desire to break the standards with a transgressive, androgynous look.”
The idea was to take one of Delvaux’s iconic models – the highly structured and traditionally shaped Brillant bag – and both vastly enlarge and literally deconstruct it until it became so soft, light and puffy it could, as he says, “double as a flight pillow”. The result is l’xxl, a bag of splendid proportions (nearly half a metre tall and wide) but so supple it can scrunch without harm into a small space.
“We strongly believe in working with designers who give a new dimension to our house’s legacy,” says Delvaux. “We were so inspired by Jean’s vision that we gave him total freedom to create this new bag with a new attitude.”
L’xxl is made from Dream calfskin, which develops a subtle patina with time; it has a translucent coating for durability but still feels as soft as it looks. It is made with Delvaux’s traditional attention to craftsmanship, lined in striped black-and-white cotton canvas, with two inside pockets, a phone compartment, two removable pouches, two handles instead of one, a redesigned flap and the signature buckle as decoration.