We are coming home! If outsourcing production to low-cost countries has been a trend for a couple of decades now, then the current one seems to be the start of an era when production is coming home again.
You would be hard-pressed to find a better example of this than Bleu de Chauffe — founded in 2009 by Frenchmen Alexandre Rousseau and Thierry Batteux.
Batteux had previously worked for sport and lifestyle companies and Rousseau comes from a background as a bag designer for LVMH, the company behind Louis Vuitton bags.
Both had worked a lot in the Far East before they, in 2009, decided to bring it home — themselves as well as production.
Savoir faire = know how
Bleu de Chauffe takes the home production very seriously. The company's tagline is "Savoir faire de proximité," which roughly translates as "local know-how".
In this case, 'local' means the Aveyron province in Southern France. The area is home to both lots of cattle and lots of tanneries, and has, over many decades, accumulated some serious know-how in leather production. It is possibly the best place in France to get all-natural leather, and is also the location of the company's workshop.
Here, skilled makers create bags from materials sourced from four locations, all in France. The leather is local, of course, and cotton, felt and metals arrive from three different producers in Northern France.
Once transformed into a Bleu de Chauffe bag, the maker who created the piece signs the bag's label and writes the date of completion.
The brand's designs could be described as functional and understated — a fact that is reflected in its name.
"Bleu de chauffe" was originally the name of the blue jacket worn by French steam engine workers in the late 1800s. Later, it came to be used as a term for the jacket worn by other workers such as locomotive drivers and factory workers.
"Mettre son bleu de chauffe" literally means to put on one's work jacket, and is a French expression similar to "getting down to work" in English.
It is the aesthetic of an industrial past that is the inspiration for Rousseau's designs. He describes them as work bags reinvented for an urban setting: simple, practical and stylish. Batteux concurs:
"I have always been a fan of workwear, and I thought it would be very interesting to bring tool bags of the past into modernity and have them protect our new tools, such as laptops and tablets."
Bleu de Chauffe has everything produced in France not just because of the local know-how, but also because of their green outlook. Their suppliers all share an ethical standard with environmental values at the core.
All materials used are natural and treated with natural agents. The leathers, for example, are tanned with mimosa, chestnut and acacia, and after use, the water in the tanning liquids is left to settle — and then completely clarified before being released into the river as clean as it was before using it.
Everything that goes into making a bag can be traced back to its very origin and the proximity of the suppliers means that nothing has to be shipped across the globe on airplanes or big container ships gulping up fossil fuels.
Local not only means know-how. It also means green. Production came home, got inspired by the past and became all natural.