Interviews,  Women in Luxury

Interview: Carla Martin Founder JEANNE.CHAVANY Stylish Handmade Luxury Handbags Made to Order in France

Jeanne.Chavany is a made-to-order French luxury accessories brand that came to our attention across social media just when founder Carla Martin began building out her passionate purpose several years ago. We have followed her ever since, applauding her efforts, cheering her on and giving her our encouragement, coverage and watching her heart-centric brand bloom and grow, getting stronger year after year.

Carla Martin, Founder JEANNE.CHAVANNY

We have the pleasure of being granted this first and exclusive, in-depth interview with Ms. Martin. We hope you enjoy this look into the mind of the luxury entrepreneur and creator.

Q – How did you get your start working in the field of luxury and what drew you to it? Tell us about your company. How did you come to found the JEANNE.CHAVANY brand? What is its mission and vision? What prompted you to create a company of this kind? What makes yours stand out in the area of luxury accessories?

Luxury is about the quality of life, it is about values, about faith, about ethics, it is not synonymous with ostentation, but of discretion and exclusivity, far from standards. These are aspects that I have learned from my parents and drive me in all aspects of my life.

I’ve built my background in the fashion industry working as a purchasing manager for several famous houses.

My entire journey started out of necessity. A few years ago, I needed a new handbag. I was looking for something distinctive, something that would make me stand out, and fit my personality. My husband suggested, as a joke, that if I couldn’t find the right handbag, I should create one. I was hooked on this idea, as I have always been in love with leather. From that moment, I got more interested in leather, and started to visit tanneries to learn and understand this noble material while surrounding myself with amazingly skilled artisans to make my ideas and designs come true. Thus JEANNE.CHAVANY was born.

We are a family owned business, based in Lyon, France the capital of gastronomy and silk nest. JEANNE.CHAVANY is my pseudonym, since I wanted to make a clear differentiation between the brand and myself, but also because I am a private person. We are a French niche maison of mindful leather goods catering to modern business woman. Very proud to say that from design to production, leather, everything is 100% made in France.

The pillars on which JEANNE.CHAVANY is founded on are ethics, quality, craftsmanship, and passion. We are a Human Brand built on respect for each other. Our customers, partners and artisans are our biggest assets. We are willing to serve, to delight and surprise our customers, because here at JEANNE.CHAVANY we believe that creating by hand is more meaningful.

If something is beautiful and fair and made without harming people, that object has a spiritual dimension of dignity and appreciation of the work. Such values form our identity and reflects to the outside of our world who we really are as a brand.

Q – Tell us about the JEANNE.CHAVANY woman? Who is she?

JEANNE.CHAVANY is a muse. She encompasses the modern active woman on a permanent move.

Today’s women are more powerful, stronger and more independent than before. The JEANNE.CHAVANY woman is bold, yet has her feet on the ground. She is a woman of action. She is an entrepreneur, a leader with an optimistic attitude to transform challenges into success. And all at once, she is elegant, feminine, discreet, confident, empowered and committed. She seeks quality, values, exclusiveness and wish to differentiate in order to stand out. She does not follow trends but endless beauty with character.

Q – You started an interesting interview series of Inspirational Women where you introduce interesting women in business internationally. What inspired this campaign? How has it been received? How does this messaging effect and reflect the JEANNE.CHAVANY brand?

JEANNE.CHAVANY is a committed brand who supports: Education through our Charity Venture with NGO PROWIBO; French “Know-how” by having 100% of our products Made In France; Sustainability through our strategy of Made-to-order to minimise waste and reduce overstock.

One of the causes we support and which is very dear to me on a personal note, is our “Inspirational Women Campaign which has for purpose publishing portraits of women who inspire me and others in all aspects not just business. Its goals is to unite/ elevate women and making their voices heard. Women from all industries from authors, founders, general managers, CEO to producer and art curator … with amazing journeys that will inspire women worldwide. This campaign has started from a personal desire to connect and create a community of like-minded women, championing, supporting and empowering women.

Indeed I use the brand’s voice to promote this Campaign, firstly because I do not have any blog or social media account, and secondly I strongly believe the purpose of a brand is no longer about selling, but to be deeply involved to make an impact, to educate, to inspire, to support. Also to communicate, interact and connect by sharing experience and knowledge. Such things the next generation won’t find explained in books.

I feel very humbled and honoured by all the amazing and wonderful ladies who joined and will continue to join it. Without them, this Campaign would not be possible. “Because when Women Support Women exceptional things happen.”

Q – What do you enjoy most about the work you do?

I’ve built this business from scratch. And this creation process is challenging and truly fascinating. But I would only point out two aspects I most enjoy:

Firstly is giving life to a design. Which starts with a very precise idea in my head, and based on the fact I do not draw, I am very much hands-on by literally “building” a prototype all by myself. This allows me to see if the shape, volume, colours details meet the initial/ visualized image I had in my mind.

Then the prototype meets the skilled hands of the craftsmen in our workshop. These hours are the most intense and captivating for me, seeing how these artisans with lot of passion, patience and expertise work hard to make my ideas come true. I can stare for hours and hours at their expert hands transforming step by step my design into reality. Reason why I like to say each product has the craftsman finger tips engraved; that object will hide an emotion inside, which will live with its owner through time.

Secondly what I extremely appreciate is the human relationship, to have that one-to-one time with our customers. I share with pride and pleasure the stories of my inspiration and the creative process behind each piece. These are the most rewarding moments for me, seeing, hearing customer’s appreciation, and compliments. Simply priceless.

Q – Tell us about your philanthropic work.

We all have a sense for the social concern to support charities. It is the ethical importance of our social responsibility. Philanthropy is not only the ‘right thing to do’ but also strengthens company culture. Helping others and giving back to communities is hugely empowering and rewarding.

From the creation of the brand, I injected all my personal values, principals and ethics. As JEANNE CHAVANY caters to contemporary business women, it was obvious for us to support education. Education is key in becoming an entrepreneur. And so it made complete sense to team up with NGO Professors Without Borders, which relates directly to the brand’s values, to support education and empowerment in schools.

Professors Without Borders NGO was founded by HRH Princess Tessy de Luxembourg, whose mission is to provide free and equal access to quality education to all students, especially women.
Their vision is to create a global community of academics and professionals who want to share their passion for knowledge with students around the world. Professors Without Borders aims to bridge the educational divide between countries, as well as between students and their teachers. They aspire to halt the brain drain by bringing teachers in rather than taking students out. http://www.prowibo.com/

In support of this venture, JEANNE.CHAVANY has designed a pen holder aptly named “New Beginnings”. 10% of each purchase will be donated to support empowerment in schools.  https://jeanne-chavany.com/produit/new-beginnings/

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”
Nelson Mandela.

Q – What was the best advice you received about being in the luxury business today?

Through this journey, I’ve had the honour and opportunity to meet extraordinary human beings and fascinating entrepreneurs. They offered me guidance and shared their experience. There are some angles which in my opinion are the most important which are: never compromise on any values; to be patient and flexible, never rush the development process. And have a long term strategy.

Q – What was one of your biggest milestones reached as an entrepreneur in luxury?

I consider myself a novice in this exigent industry. I still need time to learn and acquire further experience, expertise, competences and skills. From everything I have achieved, I am humble to say the most important one is to have succeeded to surround myself with skilled and experienced artisans, who were trained for years to achieve excellence. This is my biggest milestone to day.

Q – What advice would you give to someone interested in starting their own luxury focused business?

This is not an easy question to answer as it depends on so many criteria and I rarely give advice to people I do not know. In order to answer your question, I would say first and foremost, before launching any business, study, listen and talk to people from this industry about what really means to start such a journey.

You need to know everything about it, how to manage and master it in details. Do not believe you will learn and discover during the journey. This was my case, I have found myself “catapulted” at the head of the business without having the time to prepare and properly do my homework. Even though it is not visible from the outside, it took me an enormous amount of energy, determination and sacrifice … and I am still learning every single day … sometimes the hard way from my own mistakes. Secondly, mindset is key like in any business, it is required lot of motivation, ambition and a huge dose of “competitiveness”.

Q – The definition of luxury is generally speaking, is greatly misunderstood. How do you serve a more refined and sophisticated client who wants true luxury vs the mass approach to luxury?

This is an excellent question.

Consumers are starting to consider the negative effect of mass production. They question where the materials come from and where they are produced. Mass production does not fit our philosophy. In part, this is a reason why our products are not distributed in shops. We aim to meet our customers, talk to them, listen to their needs and requirements and then decide how we can serve them best. We wish to surprise them and make them think we have some “special powers” that help us to make their dreams come true.

“Made for You” = “Made to Order”. In a world where there are so many products ready to be delivered within a “click” we love the idea of making a product just for YOU. Our definition of Made to Order: each object is handcrafted to order, we are proud and delighted to share with our customers through photos and videos the steps in the making process from the beginning to the end of their purchased object. In this way the product will be paired from the start with memories.

We also propose “Off Market” products which are not showcased on our website or social media. These unique products are presented only during private and exclusive events.

Q – What are your personal philosophies about luxury as a mindset and approach to living? How do you think people could get more out of luxury beyond acquisition?

I am reminded of this wonderful quote “But there is really no beautiful style, no beautiful drawing, no beautiful colour. There is only one beauty, the beauty of truth revealing itself.” Auguste Rodin.

I am fortunate to have had received an education based on values. My mother has always thought me strong principals of life, like to be honest: what you see is what you get; To appreciate and enjoy simple things in life which have proven to be the most wonderful, memorable; To have respect for other people and to enjoy every day at it’s fullest. Time flies by so fast, we need to use it wisely because there is no second chance/life.

Then with years and life experience I have earned a personal philosophy about “luxury” which is synonym of culture/ education/art;

  • It is an emotion, a surprise, a passion and delight;
  • It is the appreciation of the “Beautiful” and quality moments in life;
  • It is a balance of Work, Life and Family.

These are my very personal state of mind and a very own way of being/ acting/ living life itself. So I believe this is in these personal aspects, what luxury is.

Q – How do you think we should articulate luxury now? What are your observations as they pertain to what resonates with your customers?

Luxury now is discretion of design by not following trends but endless beauty; it is ethical and mindful products made with respect and without harming people so that objects will have a spiritual dimension of dignity and appreciation of the work; It is sustainable products that do not go out of fashion and are lifelong.

By producing in France, our aim is to have a total quality control, by personally checking each product from start through the entire manufacturing process (as one artisan makes each object from the beginning to the end). And we put so much care into every minuscule and thoughtful detail.

Q – How do you think luxury brands can retain or recapture their meaning as the context shifts?

There are so many articles written on this subject, so I would simply say, that we should never forget where we come from, never forget our roots and consistently returning to our source in order to stay true to our DNA.

Q – What do you see as the true meaning of luxury both from the brand perspective and the customer perspective?

Sustainability became a luxury value. Customers look for honest and respectful products manufactured with sustainable values in mind. They search for timeless products that are made to last.

Customers buy into brands cautious of environmental and social impact. They are hungry for information in this digital age, they do lot of research about the product or brands to make sure their purchase decision reflect their ethics.

We pay a lot of attention in sourcing only leather suppliers with CITES certification, guaranteeing humane treatment of animals and the preservation of species. Our leather suppliers have a strong engagement to recycle and invest in technology to reduce energy and water. These parameters are the basis of a JEANNE.CHAVANY partnership, with our commitment to upholding the environmental sustainability by personally meeting and visiting all of our suppliers of raw materials. Then our social commitment though our actions like the Inspirational Women Campaign, The Charity Venture and the perpetuation of French heritage of “know how”.

Q – Luxury should be about how it’s experienced, it’s about feeling, an emotional connection and evocation. How do you think that Luxury be more charming and resonate in an emotional level?

Luxury is ideally very personal. Your luxury is not mine and vice versa; everyone perceives it differently according to a ones life, to their culture, to the period of time. In my opinion it is all about education and values we received in life. Someone might be overwhelmed with thrill and emotion in front of a theater/ opera piece, or an ancient watch, or painting, or hyper car …etc.

We try to focus on something special, something simple yet effortless by eliminating all that “superfluous” like personally meeting our customers. They are always impatient and curious to meet the designer and learn the stories behind. They are eager to discover how their purchased “made to order” object was created. These simple things touch people most, as these made them feel significant and unique. Because in the end we like to say that “Simplicity is an ART”.

Q – What is coming up for the evolution of the JEANNE.CHAVANY brand?

The brand is young, therefore we will continue to focus and work on brand’s foundation and maintain it’s organically growth toward longevity. We have few exciting ongoing projects, which I cannot disclose for the moment.

As part of our evolution we are looking to find the perfect place to open our Showroom because customers experience is something we take seriously. We wish to invite the customers into a totally different dimension a place to experience, discover and enjoy magic moments; into an intimate “bubble” yet comfortable space where that they could feel like home. Our final goal is to create a place to enjoy spending time.

For more information on the JEANNE.CHAVANY collection visit https://jeanne-chavany.com/

EAT LOVE SAVOR® believes in supporting artisans, artists, luxury creators, private maisons, ateliers… those smaller brands, makers and personalized made-to-order services and experiences because these wonderful people with their vision and hard work have great stories to share and bring meaning back to luxury. They are so deserving of attention because not only for the incredible work they do and to have the spotlight shine upon them. The wealthy today are interested in more than logos and labels; they desire something made from the heart, especially for them, like luxury once was before the dawning of conglomerates and mass production.

We’d love your feedback. If you are such a brand or know one that you’d like to see us feature, please get in touch!

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