Edwina de Charette, a Life in Leather

Edwina de Charette, a Life in Leather

When she went looking for the bag of her dreams, Edwina de Charette la Contrie had no idea she would be opening a door that would turn her life upside down. Being demanding and always in search of perfection, she very soon realised that if she couldn’t find her heart’s desire, she’d have to make it herself. That’s where everything started, the encounter with leather, its sensual textures and its smells made her plunge headlong into the world of leather goods. She very soon became fascinated by traditional techniques and then, because one thing leads to another, she opened a boutique-workshop in Rue de la Sourdière. LaContrie was founded and is totally dedicated to luxury craftsmanship, where every intended and controlled action encounters the decidedly contemporary forms designed by Edwina. Another thing that will delight quite a lot of you, laContrie also offers a personalisation service where you can choose the leather, the texture, the colour, the lining and the fastenings down to the tiniest details. And who hasn’t dreamed of owning that special bag upon which time leaves but a gorgeous patina and that will live on for many years in the hands of your children. An encounter with an extreme personality, absolutely full of life and profoundly human.

Salon Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris
Edwina de Charette, a Life in Leather
Barcelona low chair
Sump bag M
Cloche Salon Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris

Edwina, could you tell us about your story so far?

Edwina

I grew up surrounded by the joyful exuberance of an aristocratic, artistic scene, and a strict convent education, then I started work for music labels before jumping ship to Nova, then becoming editor in chief and programme manage for Paris Dernière. It’s almost by chance that I trained in making leather goods, in one of those moments when my professional life was in a downturn, after I became a mum for the first time.

How did the adventure that is laContrie start?

Edwina

The concepts of durability, and having something to pass on, made the case for themselves. I had started looking for a bag. The ultimate design, to last a lifetime. It-bags were all about fashion, but I was looking for the essence of a bag. A bag that was unmarked and label free – apart from the patina of time – that I could pass on to my daughter. I’m a perfectionist and I can’t do things by halves. To achieve this aesthetic ideal at a price I could cope with, I decided to have my own bag made by a leather craftsman. I fell in love with the process of designing and making something. From sourcing the hides through to the technique: I learned it all. I created bags instinctively, without a pattern (or any symmetry). I really liked the shape of my bags. Above all else, I’m passionate about the material, the leather, processing it as little as possible to preserve its simplicity with the utmost of dignity and quality. Sewing by hand makes me happy; it’s so relaxing, it’s almost hypnotic.

One of your hallmarks is working in leather with specific, traditional techniques – what do you use?

Edwina

I’d say that what makes us special is our traditional way of working, in a way that dignifies both the material and the artisan who works with it. It’s also a way of ensuring that all our designs, from A to Z, are made by hand – from cutting out the leather until the finished product is coated with beeswax. The wax comes from my family home in the Touraine region. Luxury has become just that: taking the time to do things right.

Portrait Edwina de Charette Paris
Rangement Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris
Salon Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris
Figures Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris
Salon Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris
Vases Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris
Edwina de Charette, a Life in Leather

What is your flagship model – or do you have several?

Edwina

The Rohan, which is inspired by a messenger bag that I launched as soon as I opened , the Saint-Roch, inspired by a bowling bag, and now, the Carrousel, which is inspired by a lens case. I’m always looking for a classic values – models that have stood the test of time and the generations. I like the idea of a timeless bag that never goes out of style.

Let’s talk about design – do you have a favourite design movement?

Edwina

Having thought about it, I don’t. I like cherry picking different movements and eras. I can be just as enthusiastic about Vuillard canvases from the Nabi movement, Le Corbusier furniture from the modernist period, Matisse collages created via Fauvism, or Mode 2 graffiti.

In terms of home design, how would you describe your style?

Edwina

I get the feeling that the style of my apartment is tough to define, because it is so eclectic. I guess, overall, it feels quite bourgeois.

Are there any items at home that you are particularly proud of?

Edwina

My shelves because they serve so many purposes – I’ve got a lot of books and ornaments. They look good, they’re original, hold a lot, and are modular, because each cube can turn around.

Edwina de Charette, a Life in Leather
Edwina de Charette, a Life in Leather
Edwina de Charette, a Life in Leather
Salon Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris
Componibili storage
Bed headboard Yliana
Edwina de Charette, a Life in Leather
Maroquinerie Louis Vuitton Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris
Brosses Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris
Parfums Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris

Is there an item that you dream of?

Edwina

A fine, modular leather sofa that takes on a patina, fully stitched by hand with a thick, contrasting stitch.

You also collect the work of some artists in particular. Can you tell us about your choices?

Edwina

I’ve got lots of objects, sculptures, and paintings. Some I inherited, some I bought, and some I found at flea markets and the like. I take quite a contemplative approach; I like it when my eyes settle on beautiful items and I let my gaze wander around my different objects. I make my choices on the go, as I find things and fall in love with them.

Do you have a destination you would recommend?

Edwina

Café Verlet, which is utterly timeless and Parisian, and which does ground coffee and candied fruit, and where you can go for lunch, or just for a cup of tea or coffee. The terrace of Le Georges restaurant, at the top of the Pompidou Centre, during the summer – an extraordinary location with an amazing view. I also like to take a walk through the courtyard of the Louvre, particularly during the evening, to see the sublime lighting and to cross through the Royal Palace (le Palais Royal). I also like the MAD, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs – the Museum of Decorative Arts.

What are your plans for the future of laContrie?

Edwina

I’m currently working on a new day bag. I’d like to expand the men’s range and start some new partnerships. I like meeting new people and being challenged in the way I was when working with Holiday, Cire Trudon, and Off White. I’d also like to make more objects for the home, such as our leather-covered weights or the leather-coated, house-shaped chocolate box for À La Mère de Famille.

Bureau Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris
Bureau Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris
Bureau Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris
Toilettes Appartement Edwina de Charette Paris

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