The Champagne region is known for its savoir faire in making sparkling wines, but there are other traditional French brands that are worth the detour. We visit with Nathalie Vidal, creator of Maison Baluchon, making beautifully designed fashion and home accessories.
Nathalie, Maison Baluchon is an exceptional and traditional French brand. Can you tell us how you started this adventure, and why you chose these particular products?
Thank you very much! The brand is the fruit of many years of creative energy and reflection. When I moved from Paris to the Champagne region I made new contacts and found ways to express myself in a new, more artistic direction.
At the time, I traveled a lot between Champagne and Paris, and found myself needing bags to carry all my things, so the products were born of necessity.
I got my first sale by turning up to a concept store in Paris with a suitcase of my pouches. I didn’t have an appointment and they tried to turn me away! But once they saw the products they bought everything and asked to carry them exclusively! It was such an exciting moment for me as a new entrepreneur.
You work in partnership with your husband. How does that function? Is Baluchon still your baby, or is it really a two-person project?
Yes we work together, although Baluchon is indeed my baby and he has other projects of his own. He has a great background in graphic arts, and is a born entrepreneur. Baluchon was like our first child, and we have made a lot of decisions about the brand together.
We love the designs on your scarves and wallpapers. Can you explain how you manage to bring a common thread to the brand, and have products that fit together, without being too similar?
When we started in 2012, we deliberately used strong motives. At the time this style had almost disappeared and we felt like we were bringing it back. It takes a long time to conceive a new design and we want to be sure that each pattern conveys an emotion.
Now our graphic style is quite recognizable. It’s important to design each collection with the Maison Baluchon look but bring in something fresh! Collaborations with brands are a great way of doing that.
Who draws the designs?
When we launched we took a young illustrator, Léa Lepivert, under our wing and we have grown the brand together since. I consider our unique way of working as one of our best successes. We use mood boards to gather our inspirations, storytelling ideas and research, and Léa translates these findings into beautiful patterns.
As for the product models, I imagine them simple and functional, often taking inspiration from 20th-century styles.
Do you have a favorite product?
Our Crossbody Purse Bag, which is a reinterpretation of the bike bags that used to be so popular in France. It was also our first bag combining leather and textile so it’s very significant for me!
You have a large product range, which is quite rare for a young company. Which was your first product, and how did others evolve?
We started with the range of zipped pouches, swiftly followed by Macbook and iPad cases. It wasn’t until 2014 that we met our leather craftsman, allowing us to diversify into handbags.
More recently, we created a series of wallpapers. It’s a different approach, targeting a new clientele, and both collections are complementary.
All your products are made in Champagne. Would you say that Baluchon is a traditional French brand?
Without intending to we created made-in-France brand which is eco-responsible, with a reasonable and considered production rate. Making the products nearby gives us a rare flexibility and items that are truly custom-made.
Tell us about your experience as an entrepreneur. Is it difficult to manage family and work?
For me being creative equates to being an entrepreneur. I am very demanding which creates a constant pressure on myself. My husband has other things outside of Baluchon and he is good at warning me if I get too intense! With two entrepreneurs in the family our routine is varied and we have worked hard to preserve our family life and define our own balance.
What are your ambitions for 2020?
We’ve been lucky enough to partner with some exceptional brands including Château de Versailles and Christian Lacroix, and hope this year will bring more collaborations. We want to grow, improve and also develop the interior design side a bit more.
There’s no shortage of ideas… we just need to find the time to accomplish them all!
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of My French Country Home.