Generally, when a brand is secretive, you expect something good to be up its sleeves. Like really good. Like a rare exotic purse with genuine diamond-encrusted hardware or a limited edition collab with one of the modern-day’s most prominent street-style geniuses that not even celebrities can get their hands on as quickly as they’d like to.
But instead, if what you find underneath all the reticence happens to be (yet another) coated canvas tote, doesn’t all the brouhaha fall rather short of your expectations? And when rich ladies, models, actresses, and fashion folk appear to be scrambling to get one (or more) for themselves, it becomes baffling. I mean, it is, after all, coated canvas, right? Herein lies the paradoxical appeal of the Maison Goyard, the oldest fashion house in the world.
But First, Some Facts
For the unrehearsed, before becoming Goyard, the company was known as the House of Martin and Morel, which had been specializing in the art of trunk and box manufacturing since 1792 (thus, making it the oldest fashion house to still be operating, albeit under a different name). In 1845, Monsieur Morel hired the 17-year old François Goyard as an apprentice. And in 1853, one year before the founding of the house of Louis Vuitton, Goyard bought off the business from Morel and named it the Maison Goyard, remaining at its helm over the course of the next 32 years and eventually passing it on to his son, Edmond, in 1885. Under Edmond’s tenure, the house became a trustworthy name in the business of trunk-making for the elite, with an equally regal storefront on Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris and state-of-the-art ateliers specializing in product quality and craftsmanship. And the house stands by this artisanal characteristic – not even a 1998 acquisition by Signoles put a dent on its traditional methods – continuing to be a family-operated company to date!
The Notorious Secrecy of Goyard
Honestly, though, Goyard’s products and trunks aren’t THAT difficult to come by. In fact, if you looked hard enough, you might have spotted Goyard trunks on the recent Dwayne Johnson-film Jungle Cruise, or the St. Louis tote in The White Lotus, and of course, you’re likely to see celebrities carrying one in and out of the gym on any given day. Plus, if you type in “Goyard” on most resale sites like Fashionphile, The RealReal, or eBay, you’ll likely come across many options in an expansive range of sizes and colorways.
However, if you’d like to purchase a Goyard at retail, you’d likely tumble into a spiral of weirdness that even Hermès’ games can’t match up to. Firstly, Goyard only sells at a select few stores – 35 around the world, to be exact – with only six in the US, in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Beverly Hills, and San Francisco, alongside a few store-in-store boutiques at Bergdorf Goodman (and at Barney’s back when Barney’s, well, existed). Secondly, Goyard is perhaps the only luxury brand to not sell anything online. Absolutely nothing. It wasn’t even possible to get a clear idea of the range of bags and luggage they sell until recently when it appears that they added a product list, although none are for sale over the virtual medium. In fact, the brand didn’t even have an Instagram account until 2016 (although, to be fair, since I got mine only last year, I shouldn’t really be complaining), in an era when the social media platform has become crucial for designers to showcase their work.
Additionally, the fashion house never stages fashion shows or splashy product launches, doesn’t advertise or promote itself in any major way, and, as to public relations, Racked magazine describes the brand’s response to an interview request, ‘they politely declined and explained that their “official policy is to not speak directly to the press,” and that this is something they “literally never do.”
They also noted that the brand “firmly believes in values such as exclusivity and discretion” and suggested we reach out to Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld for comment instead.’
Gee, would any other brand have the gall to actually redirect journalists to a fashion demigod (because is Lagerfeld anything less than that?) to comment on them, that too on their behalf? Very unlikely!
So Why is Goyard So Popular?
If the brand appealed to a class of fashion VIPs as broad as Lagerfeld, Coco Chanel, the Duke of Windsor, and Kanye West, there must be something extraordinary about it, right? To begin with, it is its sense of exclusivity that is primarily appealing to many. Take the St. Louis tote, for instance. Built from coated canvas with leather trims, structurally and conceptually, it isn’t all that different from the Louis Vuitton Neverfull or the Michael Kors Jet Set Tote. But because of its unique brand value and heritage, and because it is so difficult to get your hands on one, it garners an appreciation that more mainstream brands like LV, Chanel, and Gucci rarely receive. Some attribute this reticence to mean that their focus on artisanal craftsmanship speaks for itself; no other form of marketing is necessary. Others opine that, since it continues to be a family-owned business, the quantitative, shareholder-oriented nature of brands operated by luxury giants cease to be a concern for Goyard. As a result, when major fashion houses, Hermès included (especially with its ever-increasing demand for Birkins), face a trade-off between exclusivity and availability, the decision for the Maison Goyard is much simpler. As Amanda sums up in this piece,
“Goyard doesn’t want to attempt the extremely common fashion industry balancing act of claiming its products are rare and precious and still trying to sell $300 cardholders to every person on Earth; the brand would simply rather not sell the cardholders.”
My Take on Goyard
But the problem, you see, is that Goyard does, in fact, sell cardholders. And SLGs account for a pretty big portion of its sales (as apparent from discussions by commenters and tPFers because Goyard never reveals how much sales it’s making). Only they don’t sell via as many avenues as its counterparts do. Now, while I understand the secretive appeal of that, it does come with rather mixed baggage.
Firstly, a quick skim of most Goyard-related threads on the PurseForum shows that some users have reported quality issues as much as any other brand. As the commenter, janels1, explains
“The St. Louis is one of the very few Goyard bags with resin (breakable like plastic) inside the bottom of the handles where it meets the bag. I had mine for a few months and folded over the handles, causing the handles to crack at the base, and also caused the leather to crack there. I was told by Goyard that I wasn’t supposed to fold over the handles on this very flexible bag, and it cost me over $200 to have the handles replaced. I stay in Paris a lot, near Goyard, and they have told me on many occasions that the St. Louis was designed by Goyard as a beach bag, and not meant to be a purse.”
If the brand’s most famous purse isn’t even meant to be used as a purse, isn’t this something the brand should have addressed by now? For a lot of buyers, their first designer purse/grown-up bag/work tote is a choice between the Goyard St. Louis and the Louis Vuitton Neverfull. And early into this comparison, a major concern becomes apparent – the St. Louis has absolutely no form of closure whatsoever, compared to the Neverfull’s, albeit minimal, securing mechanism. Now, you might say that there are other tote options from Goyard, like the Artois and the Anjou. Still, those are also higher up on the pricing spectrum than the Neverfull, which is a big consideration, especially if you happen to be a first-time purchaser. How do you choose then?
Secondly, the brand’s monogram print, which actually features a symbolic Y-print fashioned from collections of dots resembling the Goyard family’s history as log drivers, is no longer hand-painted as it was in the beginning. Rather, it is made via a mechanized processes, perhaps not entirely unlike the Neverfull, and possess a plasticky texture not too dissimilar from waterproof grocery totes.
It’s true that you won’t come across a Goyard in the wild as often as an LV (depending on where you live), and many have deemed it “a secret club of the elite,” but is it really worth the hassle of having to travel half-way across the world to get one, and then again, to get repairs done and/or problems sorted? And if you’d like to opt for personalizing your Goyard through a combination of initials, stars, or stripes, which, thankfully, is still hand-painted at the brand’s select few ateliers in Beverly Hills, New York, Mexico, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Brazil or Carcassone, France, you’d still have to hang around for a fair bit near the store (especially if you’re traveling) to get it back. Yes, having few outlets makes the brand exclusive, but it also drastically limits your avenues for customer service in case things go south.
Not to mention, as commenter janels1 explains later, she found the Artois inconvenient, considered the Voltaire tote, and was on the lookout for a Goyard that she actually likes. And to be honest, in my opinion, I share her sentiments. Take the Saigon: one of the few Goyards that come in calfskin, in an absolutely divine crocodile, as well as in chevron. Now, while I’m not a fan of the Saigon’s wooden handle that honestly reminds me of a Gucci Bamboo wannabe, I would really appreciate more such all-leather designs from the brand, like the recent Anjou reversible tote featuring elephant embroidery, which, although rather basic, at least brings some much-needed variation! Designers at Goyard, please take notes!
On the whole, Goyard’s offerings are lightweight, durable, foldable, and waterproof (but hey, so is Longchamp), with an air of exclusivity that makes them stand apart from the crowd. However, personally, I have devoted a lot of thought to this and have found myself unable to like any of its designs, in particular, except perhaps Kanye West’s one-off “robot face” backpack that sold for $55,000. But hey, that’s just my opinion on the matter.
*Internal screaming intensifies*
How about you? Are you a fan of Goyard, and if so, why?
A note from the author: The post has been edited for clarification of the details regarding the house of Goyard that were previously written in error. Our sincerest apologies for the issues pointed out by our knowledgeable commenters, we appreciate your continued support.