Louis Vuitton, Goyard, Hermès … we all know the greats, the dreamy heritage brands with iconic logos and a dizzying dedication to craftsmanship. They’re in our closets, hanging off our shoulders and always gracing our wish lists. Now it’s time to add another brand to the lineup: the French house of Moynat. Considering that the company predates both Goyard and Louis Vuitton by four and five years respectively, it’s an understatement to say that the brand has flown under the radar for far too long. There’s no doubt that Moynat is making a comeback, and with their offering of luxe handbags, small leather goods and intricate marquetry, we’re sure you’re going to fall for them as hard as we have.
The Story Behind The Brand
It all began in 1849, when Pauline Moynat founded her eponymous luggage company in Paris. As the only female trunk maker in an industry of men, Moynat’s entrepreneurial legacy is an impressive one. The railway system was just beginning to make an impact on French society and, as a result, the demand for luggage was increasing. Her move to capitalize on the development of modern transportation was not limited to trains, however; the house of Moynat began to flourish as automobiles became de rigueur.
Moynat filed numerous patents to preserve their innovations, including one in 1854 for a canvas material coated with the natural gutta-percha sap (a tree-derived latex), ensuring that trunks were waterproof. Moynat can also claim ownership over the first automobile trunk, the automobile hat box trunk and the limousine trunk — a trunk with a concave base designed to fit perfectly atop a car roof — all of which it patented.
In 1878, Moynat expanded into the luxury handbag sphere with chamois leather-lined bags, and by 1920 artist Henri Rapin had designed the Initial canvas with a repeating M pattern that still serves as the brand’s signature monogram. And heads up, Birkin lovers: Moynat was the first company to create a handbag as an homage to a celebrity. The Réjane bag was named after Gabrielle-Charlotte Réju (also known as Gabrielle Réjane), a French Belle Époque stage and silent film actress.
The Revival of Moynat
So why did Moynat fade into temporary obscurity, failing to become a household name like its contemporaries? The brand fell out of fashion in the late sixties, and by 1976 Moynat had closed its doors. But in 2011, French business magnate Bernard Arnault of LVMH took it upon himself to give Moynat a second chance at success.
Now, Moynat has returned to the artisanal mastery that first gave its name weight at the turn of the century. Every craftsman at the atelier is able to create a bag from start to finish, and in 2013, the atelier stated that they produce only thirty bags a week. The attention to detail is literally tangible: bags boast hand-cast hardware, patented locking mechanisms and traditional hammered stitching.
Along with the brand’s rejuvenation came the revival of the classic Réjane style. Simultaneously boxy and sleek, the Réjane exemplifies the epitome of Moynat’s technical handiwork: one bag takes over twenty hours to complete, and its edges are painted and waxed numerous times until the finish is perfect.
Rapin’s Initial canvas, with its Art Deco allure and water-resistance, has also persevered and can be found adorning roomy Cabas totes, briefcases and an assortment of modern trunks. “While Moynat’s monogram canvas is less well-known than the LVs of the world, the canvas that they use is certainly more durable,” says our Senior Director of Authentication, Graham Wetzbarger. “A bag made of this material is going to be more appropriate as an everyday workhorse type of bag.”
If that isn’t enough craftsmanship for you, Moynat’s other leather products take it one step further. Creative Director and previous Hermès Senior Designer Ramesh Nair pushed to bring marquetry, an old European technique that requires intense precision and patience, back to the house. “To the naked eye, it looks like a colored print, but Moynat’s marquetry is actually puzzle pieces of leather inlaid and adhered to create images,” explains Wetzbarger. “It takes a great deal of expertise to produce these items. If you saw a graphic printed on the surface, you would know it was not genuine.” Pouches, keychains and notebooks feature stylized trains, cars and faces, alluding to motifs the brand used in the 1920s.
With their colorful accessories, finely-crafted bags and overall je ne sais quoi, Moynat should be slated to rise through the ranks of heritage stardom, but the house remains elusive. Moynat’s coveted merchandise is unavailable for purchase online (except for consigned pieces on The RealReal, of course) and is exclusively sold internationally through their boutiques and the occasional pop-up. One thing’s for sure, though: Moynat is here to stay, and we’re keeping our checkbooks at the ready.
Ready to invest in your new favorite brand? Shop our selection of authenticated Moynat pieces here.