Be daring and still land safely on your feet, that’s what Christina Zeller learned when she worked alongside Karl Lagerfeld. Since 2012 she has shown her courage in our country. As creative director of Delvaux, she enriches the luxury leather goods from the oldest luxury leather goods store in the world with a dash of magic. We had the chance to interview her.
Text Anja Van Der Borght
Christina Zeller – artistic director Delvaux.
Has Delvaux changed since you took the creative helm three years ago?
CZ: “Delvaux is the oldest luxury leather goods manufacturer in the world and can boast an exceptional savoir-faire, traditional top quality and an innovative pioneering spirit. It is therefore not my intention at all to change the brand. I did want however to blow a new wind through the house. When you work somewhere for a long time, you often no longer see the possibilities or opportunities yourself. My fresh, somewhat daring and more feminine look today results in more contemporary designs in which craftsmanship is not always brought to the fore, but rather in an innovative and not so much in a traditional way. By this I mean that we at Delvaux are constantly exploring sectors such as extreme sports, the aviation industry or the automotive world in search of new techniques and materials. The limited edition that we make every year in PVC is a good example of this. We can easily do that for more than eighteen months. These creative editions are always mini-laboratories that give us ideas that we can, for example, later apply to our exotic leathers. Today, Delvaux has a more hands on approach when it comes to research and innovations and has expanded its territory in terms of creation.”
Delvaux SS19 Tempête MM Tzigane.
What was the biggest challenge for you in your early days at Delvaux?
CZ: “The most difficult part was undoubtedly that on the one hand I had to completely immerse myself in the heritage and traditions of the house, but on the other hand I had to take some distance from it. I had to feel free to listen to my intuition and feeling. Through my work at Lanvin, at Karl Lagerfeld, at Christian Lacroix and my last job as general accessories director at Givenchy, I developed a more modern vision over the years. I relied on that to give Delvaux a slightly different touch. This was enough to add a bit of magic to give the brand some extra glamour and modernity. ”
How have you been able to make your entry at all those major brands?
CZ: “My mother was a fashion model for Chanel for a long time and worked in the boutique alongside Gabrielle Chanel. At that time, couture was still presented to the customer and I often went to watch on Wednesday afternoons. This way I was immersed in fashion. Yet it was not my ambition to get started in that sector. I really wanted to be a translator-interpreter and do political translations, but fate decided otherwise. ”
Delvaux SS19 Cool Box MM Phantom Celadon Jade.
What have you learned from Karl Lagerfeld that you still put to good use today?
CZ: “When I worked with Karl Lagerfeld in the 1990s, marketing was far less valued than today. We were allowed to do more and also dared more. I learned from Lagerfeld that anything is possible and that it is fully acceptable to completely change your mind. This often made me smile. Karl could announce one season that everything had to be white, because white was really it, THE thing, and then the next season he would come up with all black creations. He then replied to the critics who spoke to him about this: “black is the new white.” Dare and still end nicely up on your feet is what I learned from Karl. ”
To what extent is Delvaux still Belgian?
CZ: “The house is owned by First Heritage Brands, an investment fund that invested in Delvaux in 2011, but which does not intervene in the daily strategy. For Delvaux, the Chinese investment fund mainly acted as a trampoline to make the leap towards the international market(s). We have evolved from a Belgian house with ten boutiques in Belgium in 2011 to an international house with 45 boutiques worldwide. We have just opened a second boutique in London, one in Milan and one in New York. All Delvaux products are still produced in Belgium and France and we have risen in quality in recent years. Due to the financial problems Delvaux had a few years ago, some products – such as the exotic leathers – had disappeared from the collection. Thanks to First Heritage Brands, we have been able to reintroduce these and reposition ourselves as a brand of ultimate luxury amidst and around French and Italian leathers. ”
Was it important for you to be able to work for a family business?
CZ: “Absolutely. With a family business such as Delvaux which, unlike large groups, is independent, you can make decisions much faster. In addition, there are more financial interests at play with large groups. The freedom you have at a family business is different and much greater. You can more easily convey a coherent message on a creative level. ”
Which is your favorite Delvaux bag?
CZ: “The L’Humour Brillant ‘Ceci N’est Pas Un Delvaux’ black edition from Les Humeurs de Brillant, a collection that the then creative director Didier Vervaeren designed in 2008 for the 50th anniversary of the Brillant. After I took office, I immediately chose this bag because it perfectly represents the vision I had in mind for the house. She is elegant, daring and artistic, timeless too and is synonymous with unconventional humour. This was for me exactly the tone that the house had to set. We do not follow any trends. Delvaux is a timeless brand with its own style and some unique, exclusive designs. So-called IT -bags are not at all the philosophy of the house because things that are quickly ‘in’ are often quickly ‘out of’ fashion.”
Delvaux SS19 Madame with chain.
Delvaux SS19 Brillant Mini Jaipur Silk Pink Celado.
Which is your favorite Delvaux bag from the new collection?
CZ: “That is the Marronnier also called the ‘Madame’ in black and white and with a carrying chain instead of a carrying strap. There is a chic tomboy in me and I love the “rock” side of that bag. Delvaux also has something ‘rockmantique’ for me and that bag embodies this perfectly. I also love the flexible aspect of the Brillant GM Fly. You can carry that bag open for a more casual attitude. When I look at models such as the Brillant, the Tempête, Le Pin, the Madame or even more recently the Cool Box, for me it is always about the same woman who just carries these bags for another occasion. I myself have a preference for the Brillant, but depending on the occasion I also wear other models. ”
Delvaux SS 19 Brillant GM Fly.
Delvaux Le Pin.
Are you a fan of Brussels?
CZ: “I am Parisienne, but I spend ninety percent of my time in Brussels. I live on Avenue Louise but still have my Paris apartment that now serves as a second home and retreat. I love the melting pot and the cosmopolitan character of Brussels and the capital is also very dynamic in terms of art. The mix of cultures is much more palpable in Brussels than in Paris. And of course Brussels has many nice addresses: I like Odette and Ville to drink a glass and I prefer the Korean restaurant Maru for its fushion kitchen but also for the atmosphere. In the summer I like to have a quick snack in La Fabrique en ville in the Egmont Park. I do my shopping at Rob The Gourmets’ Market because the products are top quality and I also love Le Marché des Chefs in Ixelles. I buy flowers at Thierry Boutémy and Rouge Pivione. And since I am a big fan and collector of jewels, you often find me in Collectors Gallery by Betty De Stefano and in Ciel mes bijoux! In terms of fashion, I mainly make my purchases in Paris, but I also love the Stijl shop in Antoine Dansaertstraat because they sell a sophisticated selection of different Belgian designers. Brussels is just a city to my heart”.