The Longchamp Le Pliage Explained

The Longchamp Le Pliage Explained Title Image

Longchamp’s iconic Le Pliage was launched in the nineties and has not only turned into a staple for many, thanks to a revival of all trends from the 2000s and also Tiktok the bag is currently going through a revival. According to Lyst, searches for Longchamp on Tiktok surged by 56% in Q2 2023 and Le Pliage ranked number 9 on the Lyst “Hottest Product List”.[1]

The Pliage has also been seen on many celebrities: Kate Middleton has multiple versions of it and even carried one at her graduation ceremony. Alessandra Ambrosio, Katie Holmes, January Jones and Miley Cyrus here with a limited edition by Jeremy Scott are fans as well.

Kate Middleton with a small version of the Pliage

We may discuss if these bags are “luxury” because of the brand and the price point but what I can personally say they are definitely very sturdy and easy to maintain. I bought some of my Longchamp bags almost 20 years ago and they still look good. (Note: this article is not sponsored, I am just sharing my personal opinion and experience.

Let’s take a closer look at this popular bag and the history of the Longchamp brand.

You can also watch my video here:

The Start of the Longchamp Business

In 1945, Jean Cassegrain took over “Au Sultan”, a luxury tobacco shop in a busy Parisian shopping area, which his parents had founded in 1926. The shop initially catered to Allied troops but after they left, there was a need to diversify the product range. In 1948, Cassegrain started to sell leather-covered pipes and laid the groundwork for the leather goods business which was not yet called Longchamp back then.[2]

Soon, Jean Cassegrain started to play with his surname – in French “casser” means “to break”, and “grain” means “grain”. This name stems from the milling profession. Every day, Cassegrain passed by a mill near Longchamp, the famous race course. And this is how the name “Longchamp” for the business was found. He commissioned Turenne Chevallereau to design a logo with a galloping horse which should be the logo of the company until today.[3]

Men’s Leather Accessories & Move into Women’s Accessories

By the 1950s, the brand had expanded internationally and Cassegrain came up with the idea of leather passport covers embossed with the respective country’s emblem in gold leaf. As this accessory turned out to be very successful, he expanded the company’s product range by small leather goods – at the time still focusing on men’s accessories. The continuing success led to the opening of the house’s own workshop and in the early 1960s, they opened a small shop at the Paris Orly Sud airport terminal. This link to travelling is quite interesting: Paris Orly had not only become a hub for travellers but also for visitors who came to watch the planes land and take off. The small shop was in the perfect strategic location. [4]

In 1971, the company realized the enormous potential of the women’s accessory market and Philippe, Jean’s son launched the first women’s bag which became very successful in Japan and in 1988, Longchamp opened their first flagship store at the famous rue St. Honoré in Paris.[5]

Le Pliage – A Game Changer

The Longchamp Le Pliage Explained Pliage Shoulderbag Black
A shoulder bag version of Le Pliage with black leather straps and flap; Picture Source: Private Collection.

Everything changed with the introduction of a lightweight bag in 1993, Le Pliage, which is still the company’s most iconic bag. Shortly afterwards, the Roseau bag, a tote bag with a bamboo-shaped element to fasten, was launched. In 2006, the brand started out with fashion as well with their first ready-to-wear collection.[6]

Characteristics of the Pliage

The Pliage has a trapezoid shape, similar to other tote bags. It may resemble the Louis Vuitton Neverfull, or the Goyard St. Louis with the difference that it has a zip on top. It has two small side pouches. The main part of the bag is made from nylon – as mentioned before, since 2023, 100% recycled nylon. The straps and the upper flap are made from leather.

The Longchamp Le Pliage Explained Pliage Shoulderbag Black Zip
Detail of the zip; Picture Source: Private Collection.

Longchamp and Sustainability

Since 2019, Longchamp has worked on replacing their virgin synthetic fibres with recycled ones. Similar to the Prada Re-Nylon bag, Longchamp aims at producing all leather goods and canvas luggage lines from recycled fibres. According to their website, this strategy reduced 20% of the carbon footprint of the Le Pliage line. At first, the company introduced Le Pliage Green in 2021 made from recycled polyamide from different sources such as fishing nets, carpets or industrial waste. Since 2023 all Le Pliage models are made from 100% recycled nylon. Longchamp also experiments with more sustainable approaches in other product lines, for example, 45% of the resin used for their glasses is plant-based.[7]

Styles of Le Pliage

There are different types and sizes of the Pliage: handbags, shoulder bags, travel bags and there are also Le Pliage backpacks and accessories. The Pliage has been launched in various colours and styles, for example, there is a mesh version called Le Pliage Filet or a basket version called Le Pliage Panier.

A version of Le Pliage Panier, the basket-style version of Le Pliage.

Collaborations with Fashion Designers and Artists

Longchamp has reinvented the classic Pliage many times. I remember a version where you could buy a white version on which you could draw your own artwork. Since 2006, Longchamp repeatedly collaborated with American fashion designer Jeremy Scott who created a pattern featuring Empire State Building popsicles or pink phone receivers, amongst others.[8]

In 2023 Longchamp collaborated with Italian artist duo TOILETPAPER.

The company also collaborated with artists to reinterpret the bag. In 2022, Graffiti Artist André Saraiva, in 2023, they collaborated with TOILETPAPER, a collective by Italian artists Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari and also Longchamp launched an homage to the late American artist Robert Indiana (you may know his famous “Love” Pop Art).[9]

Le Pliage’s Main Characteristic Is that It Is Foldable

According to Longchamp, the bag is Origami-inspired, which means that it is foldable. Philippe Cassegrain’s discovered Origami on his travels to Japan. “Pliage” means “folding” in French. It has become a staple for business, travel, the beach and leisure.

The Longchamp Le Pliage Explained Folded
Le Pliage can be folded; Picture source: Private Collection.

I got my first Pliage at the end of the 90s and used it for school. My mother used it for travelling because in contrast to leather bags or more bulky bags, you can pack quite a few of these in your suitcase. I bought Pliage bags because they are lightweight and foldable, because I travel a lot but I am the worst packer in the world. Hence, the Pliage allows me to bring more bags than I actually need.

Maintenance and Repair of the Pliage

The material is quite sturdy and I do not need to pay too much attention if they get dirty. Many people recommend to dry clean the bags. I actually wash them by hand using either some soap or dishwashing liquid and a soft brush. So far, I have always gotten them very clean. Needless to say, the lighter the colour, the more “difficult”, but I have a cream version which still looks very nice after hand-washing it multiple times.

The Longchamp Le Pliage Explained Damaged Corners
Damaged corners of the Pliage; Picture Source: Private Collection.

The only thing I noticed so far is that the corners get damaged over time. I read that Longchamp offers an after-sales repair service against a fee. Let me know if you want me to try it and share my experience with you.


Footnotes

[1] Lyst 2024.

[2] Longchamp 2024a & 2024b, Success 2024.

[3-6] ibid.

[7] Longchamp 2024a, 2024b & 2024c.

[8] Harper’s Bazaar 2024, Longchamp 2024d.

[9] ibid.


Sources

Harper’s Bazaar, Exclusive, last accessed on 21 February 2024.

Longchamp, The Story of Longchamp, last accessed on 21 February 2024.

Longchamp, Maison Longchamp Sustainability, last accessed on 21 February 2024.

Longchamp, FAQ, last accessed on 21 February 2024.

Longchamp, Official Website, last accessed on 21 February 2024.

Lyst, The Lyst Index, last accessed on 21 February 2024.

Success, Longchamp, last accessed on 21 February 2024.

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