A career in fashion PR gave Peau de Chagrin founder Mesh Chhibber an insight into excess: “You see so many products that are expensive and not well made,” he says. “I want to make things that will last a lifetime.”
He launched the company with his friend Sofie C. Guerrero, a dancer and artist with an eye for high-quality design. They design and produce very few products – including crêpe de chine scarves and vegetable-tanned leather bags – in limited quantities, made by the best European craftspeople. Their brand is named after Honoré de Balzac’s novel of excess, and a copy of the book comes with each bag. “Don’t buy a new bag every year,” says Sofie. “Just buy one, and use it forever.”
The vegetable tanning of the leather takes many weeks. It’s a more environmentally sustainable method than the commonly used chrome tanning, and gives leather a less uniform surface.
Peau de Chagrin’s tan bag is made by a craftsman in the Swiss Jura mountains, while the black version is made in Bordeaux, France. Each atelier produces only a small number of pieces.
The brand’s silk carré – the French word for a square – is produced in a traditional atelier in Lyon, using a silk screen. It’s a slow and highly skilled method, in which colours are built up one by one; the designers prefer it to digital printing, because it gives a deeper, more vivid image on both sides of the fabric.
“Peau de Chagrin literally means the skin of sorrows,” says Sofie. “Vegetable-tanned leather becomes more and more beautiful as it ages, but it marks as we mark. Each bag will age according to its owner – there’s a beauty that comes through, the essence of something, and it tells a story.”
“Peau de Chagrin literally means the skin of sorrows,” says Sofie. Each bag will age according to its owner – there’s a beauty that comes through, the essence of something, and it tells a story.”