We had a colorful conversation about bags with French bag designer Renaud Pellegrino, who defines his timeless and modern bags as “windows to life”.
You are one of the most famous bag designers in Paris, but you are also an artist who creates sculptures. What is the inspiration for all of your years of creativity?
Life! Growing up on the French Riviera, life is my true inspiration; I am in love with colors, light and scenery. That’s why all my collections are so colorful. Besides, I admire women and their movements and love to look for ways to beautify them. I find many ideas in art books, museums, art galleries at my home in Paris. I would spend all my time there if I could.
But unfortunately, the pandemic has placed restrictions on travel, where I find much of my inspiration. For example, I am looking forward to going to Istanbul this month. This exciting culture that represents the union of East and West; creates a mixture of history, philosophy and aesthetics. Turkey reminds me of different art forms, techniques, styles and the Mediterranean inspiration I have adopted. I can’t wait to get lost and find new inspiration in the Grand Bazaar, a bridge that brings different cultures together. I’m ready to discover amazing artists and treasures!
How did you start designing bags?
I started my career in the late 1960s by designing shoes in my hometown of Cannes, before entering the world of leather goods. I love working with my hands. That’s why I wanted to be a sculptor, painter or writer; but I’m designing bags because I don’t know how to be!” I always thought. Then, in the early 80s, I had the chance to design bags for fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, and years later I founded my own brand.
Your bags are always very stylish, noble and at the same time modern. Can you talk a little bit about the design process?
Thank you! Actually, I don’t have a creative process; my ideas come as I travel, get to know new artists and artisans, visit exhibitions, listen to feedback from my clients and exchange ideas with my team. Afterwards, I take note of my new inspirations and draw sketches in my studio and workshop. I don’t believe in rules. I don’t want to be constrained by rules, time or trends. I prefer my imagination to be free to come up with the best design. Sometimes the form of a bag naturally transforms from an abstract idea to a concrete design. Afterwards, it is the relationship between design and stones that always interests me and inspires me.
You have been in this business for over 35 years. What have you learned during your career?
In the long run, you learn a lot, and most of all, you get the chance to learn from your mistakes. I believe the most important lesson is to stay true to the core. Only you know where the brand should be, how it should appear, be managed and expressed. Products come and go, but having a loyal customer is invaluable. Our aim is not to follow the trends, but to reinterpret our own designs and color inspiration. Of course, I also pay attention to developments in the industry, but I don’t want my inspiration to be affected.
You say that bags are a window to life, can you describe Renaud Pellegrino bags in three words? What do they contain about life?
I believe the DNA of the brand lies behind the bags’ unique forms and strong color contrasts. For example, our evening bags push the limits with luxury materials and versatile uses. We are always working to be original, timeless, distinguished and to maintain our strong line. People think that I am the “magician of time and color”. I don’t want to target just one generation; I try to stay true to our values and aesthetics while addressing every style and woman. We want to be exclusive, but also universal. I think that daily bags and evening bags can be used interchangeably. Each client writes their own story with a design. For example, an evening bag can be combined with a denim piece to calm the look. Our customers can customize our designs and use them the way they want.
How would you describe women who carry Renaud Pellegrino bags?
I love all women and design my bags for all of them; however, my designs are usually used by self-confident women who are not afraid to bring their originality to the fore. They love fashion, but may not choose to follow the rules dictated by the industry. They are looking for high-quality, timeless and bold products with an innate craftsmanship. They are mostly influenced by the big brands in the industry and the designers rather than the prominent logos.
Who has worn your bags since Renaud Pellegrino’s founding?
Since the founding of my brand, I’ve had the chance to see amazing people use my designs, from Lauren Bacall and Catherine Deneuve to Paloma Picasso and Queen Rania of Jordan, and more recently Emma Roberts and Cyndi Lauper. I value all of my clients that I enjoy serving. I am very happy when a client appreciates my collections and shares photos of them carrying my designs with us. It even makes me happy to hear that my customers feel beautiful and confident carrying a Renaud Pellegrino bag!
How are the dynamics of women’s bags nowadays? What has changed in your designs from yesterday to today?
The functionality of bags has improved a lot in the past 30 years since I founded my brand. Although I am fascinated by bag designs while walking on the street, the way women carry bags attracts my attention the most. In order to stay up to date, it is necessary to be aware of how the world is developing. Although I am not an expert in practical bags, it is very important for me to be in harmony with every movement of every woman of every generation. I don’t like tote straps and crossbody bags, but nowadays I have to add straps to every bag to adapt to the tastes and wishes of the new generation. I am very lucky as my partner is a woman who evaluates bags with functionality beyond aesthetics.
Since we also evaluated functionality, we recently created a colorful and fun collection in my studio called “Little Luxuries”, which includes phone cases, mini bags and small accessories, inspired by the DNA of our brand. We also see that vintage styles have become a trend and a source of inspiration lately. My customers also want to see new editions of my 90’s bags.
What are the prominent trends in your bags for the upcoming Spring/Summer season?
As we approach the end of the pandemic, we see people starting to go out and women starting to dress up again. That’s why the Renaud Pellegrino Spring/Summer 2022 collection, with its evening bags embellished with fascinating stones and crystals, was inspired by the vibrant colors and architectural treasures of Jaipur, the pink city of India. The colors of flowers and spices that illuminate the streets were inspired by embroidery and jewelery adorning women. The story we created with the precious pieces we collected from our travels came to life with this collection of noble materials and vibrant colors.
How did you design the “Imaginary Winter” Collection? What inspired you in this collection?
When the Fall/Winter 2021 “Imaginary Winter” Collection was designed, the curfew was announced for the third time in France and we were all experiencing uncertainty. I wanted the collection to reveal energetic and daring colors. In addition to the fact that colors and patterns were inspired by the fauvist movement, I felt that my freedom was restricted due to the successive curfews and mask requirement. Swallows and all birds inspired me, I wish I too could fly and be free in a peaceful place. Swallow-patterned Lana bags were also the best seller of that season!
The Saatolog is a time-related journal, so I would like to ask how you are with time. How do you use time as an artist and designer?
We live by fashion week calendars in the fashion industry and they remind us of the reality of time. That’s why being timeless is very important to me and I try to reflect this on all my bags. I am happy to see that the Cardinal bag I designed almost 40 years ago is still up to date today. From the mini version to the large size for everyday use, the Cardinal is still our best-selling iconic bag.
Do you like watches?
Of course I do, but I don’t want them to tell me the time! Beyond their aesthetic stances, I admire their details like works of art. Just like my bags!